16 November 2022

Student wins £5,000 in Sheffield real estate competition

Property company RBH has awarded £5000 to a University of Sheffield planning student for his innovative ideas to transform a mammoth city centre office development.

Inviting students from The University of Sheffield to take part in the company’s inaugural Real Estate Competition, the team at RBH asked participants to identify a commercial user for Block 1 of their latest development – Pennine Five in Sheffield.

Pennine Five (or “P5”) is the largest new multi-tenant campus in Sheffield.

Previously occupied by HSBC and closed to the public, RBH purchased the site in 2018 and has been updating the exteriors and interiors with a stylish dark makeover to deliver a contemporary and multifunctional office space.

Suitable for up to 3,500 workers and divided into five separate blocks surrounded around a central plaza, this 450,000 sq ft campus and £60m project will provide over 230,000 sq ft net internal office space, over 400 car parking spaces, including EV charging, and over 200 cycling spaces.

Candidates were asked to submit written submissions or 3-minute-long presentations to pitch identified commercial users. They were then invited for interviews to further discuss their suggestions and ideas.

After reviewing entries, RBH announced that Ethan Ellison, 32, a second year MPLAN Urban Studies and Planning student, who had entered through his university’s careers service, was named winner.

The £5,000 prize was awarded to the single most helpful proposal for determining the long-term user of the property and Ethan’s submission was understood to be well-thought through and researched.

His recommendations were to use Block 1 as a mixed-use development taking inspiration from Asian cities, but also successful projects in Leeds and Manchester, where the building could act as an arts and culture hub, an independent shopping mall, or food and drink destination, where people could stay in the evening for several after-work activities.

Ethan Ellison said: “Pennine Five’s greatest asset is its city centre location where it can be a centre point for young professionals but the area, though well located, feels disconnected. RBH has a great opportunity to make the Cathedral district more attractive, more accessible, and altogether friendlier.

“I enjoyed this project – it was a really good way to do a placement and to get experience through a creative, boundary-pushing assignment that reflects what the future will hold if I get a job like that after university. To win is the best confidence boost, along with the real, tangible feedback I received from RBH.

“Planning and real estate is a global industry but so often determined by local policies and regulations so with my prize money I’m hoping to take my third year abroad and learn how they might do things differently in another country. The money is enabling me to get that wider experience.”

Jeremy Hughes, Director at RBH Properties, said: “Ethan’s ideas aligned with and reinforced our innovative plans for the renewal and reimagination of the five existing office blocks here at Pennine Five.

“We want the campus to go beyond the usual 9-5 and remain activated into the evenings and at weekends. We are considering lots of options to ensure the project is inclusive of art and culture, and committing to the creation of event spaces, both inside and out.

“We hope with the completion of the central plaza next year, we plan to demonstrate that you don’t need to demolish older office buildings in order to make them suitable for the modern working environment and add a welcoming new focal point for the area.”

Dr Lee Crookes, from The University of Sheffield’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning, said: “It’s really pleasing to hear that Ethan has won this competition and as his work has always shown a lot of promise it doesn’t shock me how well he’s done.

“Ethan’s relationship with RBH is testament to the work of the University’s Careers Service and our own Departmental Placement, Employability and External Relations team who make considerable efforts to develop relationships with a wide range of external partners.

“It’s important for us to provide our students with placement opportunities and ‘hands-on’ experience where they can they apply their knowledge and skills to tackling ‘real world’ issues.”

P5 aims to be the desired location for the modern workforce with a café/bar, gym and dedicated coworking space while focusing on sustainability, flexibility and mental wellbeing.

The final phase of the modernisation will be completed within the next 12 months, with the plaza expected to open in Spring 2023.

Further information can be found at both: www.penninefive.com and www.rbhproperties.co.uk