As Sheffield City Council press ahead with plans to improve the city centre, an application has been sought to improve the Gaumont building, situated in Barkers Pool. The site was promoted by the Council earlier this year and local developers Hallam Land Management have proposed a new look for the central landmark.
The Gaumont building formerly operated as a theatre dating back to 1927 when it was known as Regent Theatre, which was latterly rebranded the Gaumont Theatre. The theatre was demolished in 1985 and rebuilt for retail, offices and an Odeon Cinema across 4 storeys. In 1994, the cinema was replaced by a nightclub and has been home to ‘Embrace’ and ‘Area’. Currently, the site has retail and café functions on the ground floor level, home to well known chain ‘Patisserie Valerie’ and homewares store ‘Stone The Crows’ amongst others.
The site is centrally located in Barkers Pool overlooking the public square which is shared by John Lewis & Partners and the City Hall and is in close proximity to the Town Hall and the Peace Gardens, situated to the east of this site. The Gaumont building forms one of the principle walking routes into the central shopping area from the University of Sheffield and is well connected to Fargate shopping high street and the recently regenerated Moor shopping area.
The site was included in the Council’s plans to regenerate the centre into ‘Sevenstone Retail Quarter’ in 2005, including Pinstone Street and Barkers Pool, and an application was sought to replace the building. Unfortunately, plans halted due to the Financial Crash in 2008 and plans were resubmitted in 2011 and 2015 but were withdrawn.
After the successful regeneration of the Moor area, the recent application for the Gaumont building appears promising for redevelopment. The new proposal intends to retain the internal structure of the building but alter the exterior to modernise the façade with a larger public entrance into leisure space to improve the accessibility of the building at street level and make the building more useable.
The plans include ground floor retail uses and leisure spaces. The upper floors will be designed as flexible spaces that can accommodate a wide range of uses to ensure the Gaumont building is adaptable for the future. The design has made use of recesses which has been inspired by the previous appearance of the building as the Regent Cinema alongside living green walls to promote an environmentally sustainable design.
The plans have come forward alongside another application to redevelop the frontages on Pinstone Street and Burgess Street which include mixed uses of a hotel, retail space and restaurants as part of the Heart of the City II Masterplan. If redevelopment commences for the associated plans, the new Gaumont frontage would complement the improved streetscape.
Overall, the application signals redevelopment progress in Sheffield City Centre in a location which has been in the pipeline for some time. As regeneration has already taken place on the Moor, the city centre has become a more pleasant and active place to be. The Gaumont design re-imagines the building to improve the user experience at street level, making Barkers Pool a more interactive and contemporary space. The proposition for adaptable internal space acknowledges the uncertainty generated by reduced city centre footfall as the popularity of online shopping and banking has reduced the demand for high street units, suggesting that the Gaumont building might welcome more varied uses in the future. This suggests that the proposal could be more sustainable in the long-term in providing vitality in the city centre and preventing vacant units, especially as reforms to permitted development legislation is expanding the uses available through conversion.
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Main Image: An artist’s impression of the new design for the Gaumont Building – Sheffield City Council.