A redevelopment scheme for Sheffield’s Victoria Quays in the 1990s envisaged a transformation from a quiet, somewhat neglected area to a busy hub with buildings converted for residential and commercial use, within a vibrant community.
Changes within the economy stalled progress of the plans, but there is currently a new excitement about Victoria Quays.
Formerly known as the Sheffield Canal Basin, the oasis close to the city centre lies at the head of the Sheffield and Tinsley Canal and dates from 1814, when canal boats came in to the heart of the city for the first time.
Since the early 1990s, old buildings and warehouses that had lain dormant for years have become flats and apartments, or offices and shop units. The Sheaf works became a pub and a new marina began to take shape.
Several buildings in the Quays area are Grade ll Listed, including the Terminal Warehouse of 1819 and the Straddle warehouse from later that century.
Most recently, this year, award winning interior design company Ovo Spaces has relocated from Newhall, and has invested £750,000 in its new HQ, a converted Victorian warehouse close to the quays.
The company already won an award for offices it created in the old Grain warehouse earlier, for communications specialist Born & Raised.
Ovo’s new space will allow an interactive show room. And a bespoke wide beam canal barge is being created, to be used for client trips and presentations.
MD David Baldwin said: “We commissioned the one off boat build because we really wanted to echo the history of this area and the incredible buildings, which we are preserving with a sensitive and sympathetic design programme.
“We work to the highest environmentally friendly standards. We believe this is an outstanding example of how to transform and up-cycle a wonderful building, creating a great working space but also preserving a vital piece of Sheffield’s industrial and cultural heritage.”
He added: “Just look at what Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester have done with their inland waterways, Sheffield can surely achieve the same accolades....and if not, the people of Sheffield need to be asking our elected Council members, why not?”
It was long intended that a heady mix of restaurants, pubs, and hotels would create a buzzing day and night life around the area. There was investment with the Hilton Hotel and leisure centre, new residential and commercial property and more activity on the canal as businesses moved in with boats for sale, and houseboat hotels. There is a thriving cafe, but another cafe bar failed to prosper. Its owners, Calder Valley Marine, moved in in 2008, and have offices plus the water space at the site.
Gordon Lambert, MD, said that due to its age and the relative isolation of Victoria Quays, footfall is low which can prove difficult for business. It is a lovely place to be, he added, and has its advantages too.
“Sometimes you’ve got to look inward and be inventive,” he said. “This project was a challenge from the start, but there is definitely the potential for much more in this area and all the signs are there that this is about to be realised.”
Tom Wright, development manager for the Canal and River Trust, said: “It will be the bicentenary of the Sheffield to Tinsley canal in 2019. To celebrate, we are keen to begin attracting people back down to the Quays this year. We are launching a waterfront festival on September 23 and 24, This will include a family themed event from Victoria Quays. We are working closely with businesses based in and around the Quays to ensure the event is a success.”