Andrea Burns sits at a small desk in an otherwise empty Grade II listed town house in Glossop Road and asks a question: “can you imagine it?”
Let’s try: this Georgian home is one of seven set to be transformed into a single 17,000 sq ft retail, dining, studio, conference and gallery complex, if her and business partner Chris Hill’s plans are approved this month.
The £1.1 million development – called The ROCO – will include a sprawling design and fashion-led shop, two exhibition areas, a café bar and deli, and 22 private studios for creative businesses.
An adjacent new-build backing onto Hounsfield Road will house meeting facilities and create two central courtyards and gardens. A ‘makers shed’ equipped with micro-manufacturing tools will be opened. Visitors will be able to walk a circular route through most of the complex.
The Diary can imagine it – and it sounds exciting.
“We’ve been working on this for two years now,” says Andrea, of Abbeydale Road, as she shows us round the properties. “It’s been such hard work getting to this stage because, obviously, the development has to be completely sympathetic to the building. Unleashing it on the public is quite nerve-wracking.”
Assuming plans are approved by Sheffield City Council this month (and outline consent has already been granted), builders will be on site this summer with the place set to open next spring. Some 25 jobs will be created with another 100 people expected to work in the available studios.
It will be run as a social enterprise with profits pumped back into Sheffield’s creative industries – hence the name ROCO, as in row of houses turned into a Co-op.
“Sheffield needs this,” says Andrea, who previously ran business support company Huella. “This will champion the city’s creators and makers. There is a huge amount of talent here but all too often it disappears to London because opportunities can be limited. This will offer studio, manufacturing and selling space, as well as the support network that comes from being based in a complex like this.”
The whole scheme started in 2012 when Chris, a social property developer from Leeds, was asked to turn the Hutton Building, in West Street, into a creative industry space. He got Andrea on board but the whole scheme fell through last year.
Not to be deterred, the pair were offered the chance to do something similar with these town houses and jumped at it.
The seven properties – five on one side of the road and two opposite – are owned by the Church Burgesses Trust charity. Until last year they had been used by Sheffield University as office space. Nick Brown Architects of Leeds, have worked up the plans.
“This is using some of Sheffield’s finest buildings and giving them a real future,” says Andrea. “I hope people get as excited as we are.”
How to get involved
Some £600,000 investment has already been made towards the transformation of seven Grade II listed town houses in Glossop Road into a retail, studio, bar and conference space. Another £300,000 in loans will be secured this summer.
But Andrea Burns and Chris Hill also want Sheffielders to get on board, and today launch a £200,000 share offer – similar to that which saved Portland Works.
People can invest as little as £200 to buy 200 shares. That gives voting powers and five per cent interest.
“This is an opportunity to invest in a local business that will support other local businesses, a community- owned co-op focused on providing creative people with education, innovation and opportunities,” says Andrea.