We've all seen this many times before. A landmark building of huge historic value to a town or city which has fallen upon hard times. Everyone wants to preserve it, but how do we actually make that happen? Sometimes to great fanfare there are ambitious plans to regenerate such buildings, only for those plans to fall flat a year or so later, as the reality of redeveloping "difficult" buildings hits home. Think of the grand plans for Sheffield's Graves Gallery to become a six star hotel for example. We now have the announcement that the Old Town Hall is up for auction next month, with a starting price of £750K, down from its previous sale price of £1.35M.
Some heritage sites are ripe for redevelopment and, with a large amount of TLC, developers can still make it stack up commercially - think of all those old warehouses and other industrial buildings which have been converted into very cool apartments and offices. Sheffield is particularly great at this - the Albert Works, Eyewitness Works and Kelham Island. But where the layouts or construction materials of a building are stacked against developers and, crucially, their funders, how can we ensure that the future of these buildings is not just left in the hands of "what works commercially"? We need to find creative ways to plug the gap between the commercial reality of redevelopment projects and the aspirations we have for our cities to value their heritage. In the aftermath of Covid, perhaps it's hard to justify spending much needed public funds on restoration projects, but we need to view this as essential investment in our cities. More so than ever, we need to give people a reason to come into our city centres and enjoy the buildings and spaces which make that city interesting and unique.
Sheffield's Old Town Hall to be sold at auction - with huge reduction in asking price.