Historic Leah’s Yard set for revival as creative hub for independent businesses
Leah’s Yard, a former 19th Century mesters works and one of Sheffield’s most important heritage buildings, is set for an exciting new future that will both honour and celebrate its rich industrial heritage as part of the Heart of the City regeneration programme.
Following an extensive bidding process, Sheffield City Council has selected an impressive bid from Sheffield Science Park Company (SSPCo), who plans to transform the building into a new destination for local independent businesses, socialising and enterprising combining a full mixed experience for visitors and users of the building. Plans also include creative workshops as well as creative spaces for Sheffield’s thriving independent business scene.
Once fully refurbished, the revitalised Leah’s Yard will feature a collection of high-quality local traders within ground floor studios, offering everything from furniture and clothes to artisan foods and ales, with unique spaces on upper floors to accommodate the best of Sheffield’s small businesses.
In addition to the creative spaces and shopfronts, the venue will host regular public-facing events, makers markets and themed evenings appealing to a diverse range of audiences.
Tom Wolfenden, CEO of SSPCo, which manages the Cooper Buildings on Arundel Street, and James O’Hara of the Rockingham Group, have realised a longstanding ambition to combine their extensive complementary experience on the new project.
“Sheffield is home to so many extremely talented people who develop incredible products, but they rarely reside in the City Centre. Our vision for Leah’s Yard is to bring all that together in one place and provide these businesses with a literal shop window and an affordable route into the city centre,” explains Tom.
“We will create a genuine independent community here, and as part of the Leah’s Yard package, tenants will have access to business support and advice from our creative and experienced professional team as well.”
While Tom plans to focus on creating a sustainable business community, James’ vision is to make Leah’s Yard a destination for the people of Sheffield and visitors alike. The aim is to get a wide range of interesting and complementary retailers showcasing the best Sheffield has to offer.
“We want people to visit Leah’s Yard and have a memorable experience, both in terms of the products you can view and buy, but also the atmosphere of the place and the people you interact with,” says James.
“First and foremost, it needs to be a place people want to gather in and wander through, regardless of whether you actually need to buy a specific item. Retail and city centres are evolving quickly. They are becoming more about this tangible shared experience, as well as supporting more independent and local businesses. Leah’s Yard will deliver both.”
Preliminary structural and roof work on the Grade II* Listed building, which sits within the Heart of the City masterplan alongside the approved Cambridge Street Collective, has been underway since September and will bring the derelict building back into a safe condition, with a view to opening the space in time for Christmas 2022.
"We want people to visit Leah’s Yard and have a memorable experience... it needs to be a place people want to gather in."James O’Hara, Rockingham Group
Councillor Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet Member for Business and Investment at Sheffield City Council, said:
“We are working to retain attractive heritage across Heart of the City, while also ensuring we create new spaces that are usable and sustainable to the local economy. Leah’s Yard has a great story within our city and it encapsulates the independent, hands-on identity that Sheffield is so well known for. The redevelopment will bring the building back to its former glory, offering bright new opportunities for our independent business community as it begins its recovery from the pandemic, as well as creating new reasons for people to visit the city centre and shop local.”
Andrew Davison, Project Director at Queensberry, added:
“We are very excited to work with Tom and James over the next couple of years and seeing this truly iconic development opportunity come together.”