A STUDY into the future use of an iconic building in the centre of Bradford has been awarded funding to investigate its potential.

Registered charity, the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) has announced it has awarded a Project Viability Grant of £5,000 to Freedom Studios Ltd.

The grant will fund a viability study to investigate the reuse of a the former high street department store, Sunwin House, in Bradford, as a multi-use cultural hub.

Located in Sunbridge Road, Sunwin House is a Grade II listed former Co-operative emporium. It was built between 1935 and 1936 and was designed by WA Johnson of CWS for the City of Bradford Co-operative Society.

The store was built in the International Modernist style and heavily influenced by the German architect Erich Mendelsohn, such as his design in 1928 of the Sckoken store, in Stuttgart.

This was an early and influential example of the open store principle, with lifts and stairs tucked around the edges of the shopping area and it also had the first escalators to be installed anywhere in a Co-op store. Its unaltered appearance, both externally and internally, is extremely rare.

Freedom Studios Ltd, a contemporary theatre company, has grasped the opportunity presented by this landmark building and brought together a partnership of other local organisations, including Impressions Gallery, in Bradford, to investigate the building’s reuse.

Matthew McKeague chief executive officer of the AHF recently visited the building and met some of the partners behind the project. He said: “Sunwin House is an impressive building which retains many of its original, high quality features. It represents the challenges facing many similar stores and shops - but equally an opportunity for the likes of Freedom Studios and its partners to reimagine what we want from these buildings and what we want our city and town centres to provide for us. This grant will help support the development of their exciting plans.”

Dr Pippa Oldfield, head of programme for Impressions Gallery said: "We’re very pleased to be a partner in exploring this positive project for Bradford. The funding from the Architectural Heritage Foundation will help us develop the possibility of transforming the much-loved Sunwin House into a centre for creativity.

"The first stage is a preliminary design for the building, and developing a proposal for the building’s usage and community benefits.

"It’s very early days and there is a lot of hard work to do, but we look forward to working with our partners Freedom Studios, BCB Community Radio and Yeme Architects, and of course involving our communities in the consultation, to see if we can bring this iconic Bradford building back to life.”

The building has unfortunately stood empty for a decade, testament to the demise of various department stores and the shift in retail trends away from town and city high streets.

More recently Sunwin House was the home to TJ Hughes which which it took over from the Co-Operative group but which closed on August 31, 2011, after the national chain went into administration, shedding more than 50 jobs.

The proposals envisage the co-location of a number of significant cultural organisations in the building, offering training, accommodation, social and performance spaces.

The AHF has been working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas.

It is the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. It provides advice, development grants and loans.

Since 1976, the AHF has awarded loans with a total value of £125m to over 890 projects across the UK and has disbursed more than 750 individual early project grants totalling over £10M.

Funding for the Bradford project has been provided under the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s ‘Community Enterprise through Heritage’ programme.