Park Hill: The Sheffield estate celebrated in song with glorious views and stark reminder of its past
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The Streets in the Sky, as the huge housing complex looking down over the city centre was famously dubbed upon opening in 1961, have become some of Sheffield’s most sought-after properties. The once unloved concrete blocks, now hailed as a masterpiece of brutalist architecture, are fast becoming a middle class enclave in what was one of the city’s more deprived areas.
New arrivals include a luxury furniture shop at the old Scottish Queen pub, one of four watering holes Park Hill once boasted, along with a firm of property consultants and a web design company. There is also a popular but for some pricey vegan and vegetarian cafe, with a high-end bar expected to open soon.
Estate was dubbed a ‘hooligans’ playground after fall from grace
It's all a far cry from Park Hill’s more troubled past. The flats were initially hailed as a world away from the slums they were built to replace but the sheen soon wore off and by the 1970s and 80s they had become dilapidated and plagued by crime and anti-social behaviour, with the estate dubbed a ‘hooligans’ playground’.
It was only after the blocks were controversially listed in 1998, saving them from the threat of demolition, that their remarkable turnaround began. The developer Urban Splash gave the flats a colourful makeover and resurrected their reputation in dramatic style.
It’s not hard to see the appeal today, with those living and working there praising the stunning views, the light and spacious apartments, the green spaces on their doorstep, including the picturesque South Street Park, and, above all, for most of those I spoke to, the sense of community. Those who have been there longest told how the problems with anti-social behaviour initially persisted after the regeneration began but seemed to have died down, with the biggest complaints we heard being about occasional littering and inconsiderate parking.
‘Everyone’s so friendly at Park Hill flats’
Matthew Brown, a 25-year-old software developer who moved into his flat at Park Hill in July 2022 with his partner Eleanor Hyde and their dog Trevor, described it as a great place to live. “We wanted somewhere close to the city but with lots of greenery, so the parks round here were a big plus,” he told The Star.
“It’s also great to be part of a community where everyone’s so friendly and sociable. There’s even a regular item swap where people can exchange things they no longer need, which is a great idea.”
Daniel Adam, a 23-year-old University of Sheffield graduate, was shooting hoops on the basketball court when I stopped him for chat. He told me how he was currently working at a call centre and staying with a friend at Park Hill while he looks for a home of his own.
He said he enjoyed the views there, the easy access to the city centre and the transport connections, with the railway station and tram stop a short stroll away, but he said the rents there were on the high side.
‘Great sense of community’
Amy Iovino, a 25-year-old accounts manager, also told how she loved living at Park Hill, with the greenery and sense of the community among her favourite features. She also liked how the flats feel quite spacious compared to some of the ‘really small’ apartments being built nowadays.
Douglas Fawcett, who works in contract sales for the Park Hill-based furniture firm Nest, told how the estate has a great ‘vibe’ and ‘pulse’, while everyone there seems really friendly.
His colleague Ashley Pendleton was a fan too. She described how her grandfather had helped to build Park Hill, while her great-grandmother Jean Wyatt ran a hair salon there in the 1960s, adding to the emotional pull for her. She lives in Chesterfield but said that were it not for family commitments she would happily move there in a flash, citing the great community, good transport links and ‘brilliant’ architecture.
South Street Kitchen has been a hugely popular addition since it opened at Park Hill in 2018, serving Middle Eastern-influenced vegan and vegetarian food.
Rob Myers, the general manager there, told how it hosts regular international-themed nights too, like the recent dumplings evening inspired by one of its chefs, who hails from the Czech Republic, also known as Czechia. Most of the regulars live or work at Park Hill, he explained, but the cafe also gets a lot of trade from people using the station.
Park Hill had four pubs and 31 shops
The redevelopment of Park Hill remains a work in progress, of course, with the elegantly restored flats overlooking the dilapidated fenced-off block which is next in line for a makeover and remains a constant reminder of the estate’s more working class past. It is also symbolises for some of what the estate, which once boasted 31 shops selling everything you could need, has lost.
One Park Hill resident, who asked not to be named, told how he had moved in last September and is very happy there. “The flats are really nice and have been done up so well,” he said. “There’s a good sense of community, which feels like it’s still growing because so many people are new here, but which people are putting a real effort into building.”
He praised the landscaping and told how he liked the convenience of being so close to the station and all the city centre has to offer, but he found the sense of ‘before and after’ there very ‘striking’.
‘It can feel like a bit of an island’
“You stand outside the door of your really nice, modern flat looking at some very derelict buildings, which have yet to be restored and show the total decline into which the estate went before becoming the very desirable but much more expensive place to live which it is today,” he said.
“Before it was all social housing but now you have people paying a lot of money to buy or rent the flats here, you have the furniture shop which is extremely expensive and you have South Street Kitchen, which is lovely but quite fancy….
“You’re close to the station but it’s still probably a 15-minute walk until you’re into the city centre proper and it can feel like a bit of an island. I imagine it's very different to how it was back in the day when you had the four pubs and lots of shops and you didn’t have to leave if you didn’t want to because you could get everything you needed. It’s not the all in one community that maybe it was before.”