Tuesday, September 13, 2011

News: Ambitious plan for Rotherham's historic High Street


Plans to regenerate key historic properties on Rotherham's High Street have been unveiled by local businessman, Chris Hamby.

If successful, the ambitious plan will result in a complex of mixed-used retail outlets including an antiques and gift shop and a micro-brewery, as well as returning the medieval Three Cranes to its original use – as a real ale pub.

Mr Hamby (pictured), who owns Hamby's shoe and gift shop in the former Mason's jewellers on the High Street, says he intends to buy and redevelop five empty properties on Rotherham High Street, along with the George Wright building that stands between the High Street and Snail Hill.

He announced his plans after hearing that Rotherham Borough Council has agreed in principal to a capital investment loan of £750,000 towards the purchase and redevelopment of the High Street site.

The loan will also secure £677,000 of Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) for additional, much needed works to the listed buildings.

If successful, the heritage grant will be used to refurbish 25-29, High Street - the Three Cranes; 29a, High Street - a Georgian town house that was latterly an Italian restaurant; and the George Wright Building.

The adjacent properties, numbers 17, 19 and 21, High Street, are relatively new buildings and are not part of the THI scheme but Mr Hamby wants to buy and refurbish them because together they make a larger development opportunity.

Plans were passed in 2005 for a redevelopment as a plaza with shops, bars and restaurants, but they were never implemented as the owners encountered financial difficulties.

Chris Hamby said: "These block of shops have long stood empty, vandalised and unloved, so I feel sure that everyone who loves Rotherham will welcome the plans.

"It has the backing of the Rotherham District Civic society and the full support of Rotherham Borough Council. The authority has been very encouraging and my sincere thanks go to the Town Centre Development Team, the Townscape Heritage Initiative Officer and the authority's Financial Services department for their help."

Although the plans are not yet finalised the George Wright building may become a micro brewery as part of this section of the scheme.

Chris added: "There has been a lot of interest shown in the remaining vacant sites. And talks are in progress with both local retailers and national chains.

"One of the empty units is already let as a top quality cake shop, and another shop will become Hamby's Gift shop, a dedicated stand-alone quality shop incorporating what is currently, only a department in the shoe store. We will then aim to extend the range of footwear and leather goods on offer at number 36 High Street."

The council's legal and financial teams will now finalise the terms and conditions of the loan agreement in respect of both interest rates and security.

The council has facilitated similar loans for larger regeneration projects in the town centre - the redevelopment recently completed by RCAT, and the community stadium for Rotherham United.

Work is expected to start on some of the retail units by late October. The grade 2 listed properties will take longer to renovate, and archaeological studies will need to be performed first.

Chris Hamby's Rotherham store has recently undergone a £250,000 renovation works as part of the £3m Townscape Heritage Initiative to restore the important building back to its former glory.

Hamby's website

Images: hambys.org.uk / Edward Symmons


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