Property: Home is as much a feeling as a location

It might come as a surprise, but I really don’t see myself as a developer, writes Tim Heatley, co-founder of Capital & Centric, the firm behind the £20m residential redevelopment of the Eye Witness cutlery works in Sheffield.

Promoted by Capital & Centric
Tuesday, 13 August, 2019, 16:15
Tim Heatley, Capital & Centric co-founder.

Creating communities that people want to live in, start families in, grow old in, is much more than bricks and mortar.

Placemaking is the latest buzz word in property and often used to suggest a more responsible sort of development. It might be overused, but the principles of placemaking should underpin everything we do.

For me, placemaking is like homemaking. A homemaker takes a house and turns it into a home, a placemaker takes a space and turns it into a place. In the same way that you look after your family, a place maker looks after the citizens of the place it’s creating.

Eye Witness Works, Sheffield. Picture: Capital & Centric.

That sense of place has been slowly shrinking from the town, to the neighbourhood, to the street, and all the way back to our house. It’s almost as though the only place we think of as home is our physical house. Not the area in which we live.

That’s because, over the past 50 or 60 years, poor design, planning, and development by spreadsheet has created entire towns and neighbourhoods lacking in soul, personality, community and joy.

For us it’s not about property it’s about people. We focus on creating an experience, a connection and a feeling of being rooted. In fact, we see it more as community curation than placemaking.

It’s back to the homemaking point, people that have very little are often better homemakers than people that are very wealthy.

They resourcefully furnish their home with soul, love, things they already have, keeping it simple and honest. Wealthy people may instead commission an interior designer to make it shiny, impressive and a statement of wealth, often lacking any sense of home.

Independent cafes, delis and shops are often so much better at nurturing that community, because the indie operator’s livelihood depends on the success of the community.

You won’t be seeing a Starbucks at our Eyewitness Works development on Milton Street, which is being transformed into apartments with a ground floor café-bar.

It’s about putting on events with live music, art, or poetry, such as the awesome Mausoleum of the Giants Show by Sheffield Street artist Phlegm which was hosted at Eyewitness Works. It’s finding ways for the community to interact with each other and build relationships.

The magic of place is often in the unplanned, the way communities in cities across the North have evolved and grown to become unique, diverse and interesting. It’s our job as curators to let those communities grow into what they want to be and that’s what makes it so exciting.