Sheffield needs a connected, consistent and enticing centre to bring in visitors and restore people’s pride in their city – and work to achieve this is already under way, according to business leaders.
Projects such as Sheffield Retail Quarter and the Heart of the City make regular appearances on the pages of The Star.
And frequent visitors to Sheffield over the past decade have seen new buildings transforming the skyline.
There is plenty in the city centre to be proud of. But in order to enhance its identity and forge ahead as one of the leading cities in the north and the UK as a whole, more needs to be done.
Thankfully, those in charge of planning and development seem to realise the importance of a connected and thoughtful vision. Sheffield Council schemes such as the golden route, guiding people from the railway station to Devonshire Green, aim to turn the city centre into one consistent area.
Diane Jarvis, manager of Sheffield Business Improvement District, a group of industry leaders trying to improve the city centre environment, said: “The feedback that we get is that it’s almost like the centre is split in two by the Heart of the City development.
“The main retail section is Fargate, but then you’ve got the Moor as well, with the new development there.
“It’s almost like a tale of two cities. It’s such a route to walk. It’s probably one of the longest shopping routes ever.
“There’s a big role to play in joining it all up and making it feel like one big city centre.”
The city’s two universities make a huge contribution to the centre, both in terms of buildings and the contribution of staff and students to the economy. They both realise the need for a connected city and are investing hundreds of millions of pounds to attract more visitors.
The University of Sheffield opened the jewel in its campus crown, the £81 million Diamond building, in September. The striking design has already brought award nominations and has led to an increase in demand for university places.
Director of estates and facilities management Keith Lilley said: “We had a 24 per cent increase in undergraduates last September. That was based on us telling students they would be taught in that building.
“It’s already having a massive positive effect on the faculty of engineering.”
But the impact is not limited to the students. The university has some excellent ‘public realm’, according to Mr Lilley, and that is for everyone to enjoy.
However, it needs to link smoothly with the ‘world class’ public realm that already exists in the city, such as the Peace Gardens. This includes the gold route, which Mr Lilley wants to extend through the Mappin site, off West Street, which will become almost entirely pedestrianised through to the planned pub in the old Henderson’s Relish factory.
He said: “We are looking to glue it together all around the university to make it feel like part of Sheffield. It’s a really important aspect to make it feel connected physically.”
The city centre already has a ‘palette’ of materials designed to ensure consistency, and the University of Sheffield has taken that on board for its own developments.
“This is about knitting the campus together but also about welcoming the residents of Sheffield through the space. We are very much part of the city. We are not going anywhere, so we are investing.”
Mr Lilley and many others at the university are keeping a close eye on city centre development.
“We are looking forward particularly to the new retail quarter,” he said. “We have been supportive of the city council in progressing with the proposals.”
Sheffield Hallam University is also investing, with a similar outcome in mind. The Hallam campus is already part of the route from the station to the city centre, via the Millennium Gallery.
And recent building work nearby such as the Charles Street building housing the Sheffield Institute of Education, has added to the feeling that Sheffield is a growing city.
Estates director Mark Swales said: “We made quite a significant contribution to the route from the station, including pedestrianisation to the top of Charles Street. It’s looking a lot more connected into the city centre with 3 St Paul’s Place recently finished.
“We’re excited about connectivity through to the new Sheffield Retail Quarter as well as the Knowledge Gateway.”
The Knowledge Gateway links Brown Street, Pond Street and Fitzalan Square. Part of that work is the refurbishment of the old Head Post Office building, which now houses Sheffield Hallam arts students.
“Hopefully that will carry on eventually down to Castlegate,” said Mr Swales.
“We are mindful of working with the city council on what impact we have on the city centre. Having an attractive city centre helps us attract and retain students, and the many tens of thousands of visitors the university gets every year.
“It’s vital. And when people experience the city centre, from the station going up, they are blown away by it. We had some visitors just last week who were gobsmacked.
“It’s a great city centre and we need to shout out about it a lot more.”
As part of our Pride in Sheffield campaign, we want to know what you think of the city centre. What do the new developments add? Are you excited by what’s proposed? And which areas do you think need more attention? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject Pride in Sheffield, and we’ll report back with your ideas and suggestions.
Building blocks of Sheffield city centre
Sheffield Retail Quarter
The £480m redevelopment of a number of buildings between City Hall and the Moor has been in the pipeline for over a decade. The scheme is no stranger to delays, but a full outline planning application could be debated by city councillors this summer. Demolition of the Grosvenor Hotel House Hotel is due to start soon.
The development of shops, homes and offices will extend Fargate, extending the city’s main shopping street to the Moor and creating a continuous retail area. It could result in the demolition of the John Lewis building, and the firm is in talks with city planners.
Close by, the former headquarters of the National Union of Miners building is being turned into offices and three ground floor restaurants.
The Heart of the City
Work on the £200m replacement for the ‘egg box’ extension to the town hall was recently completed with the opening of 3 St Paul’s Place, a £20m grade ‘A’ office on the corner of Charles and Norfolk streets.
It is the sixth and final building in a development around the Peace Gardens which includes the Winter Garden, the Mercure Hotel, St Paul’s City Lofts, a 32-storey tower, and the Cheesegrater car park. The area is part of the gold route from the railway station to Devonshire Green.
But director of developer CTP David Topham told the Star last week he was working on plans for 4 St Paul’s square because ‘demand is there’.
Significant funds have already been investing in the Moor to bring Sheffield city centre’s other shopping street up to modern standards. The Moor Market opened at the end of 2013, and although it started slow, footfall has improved. New shops and a car park were finished at the same time.
Phase two of development is underway. A nine-screen cinema is being built next to Debenhams and more work is planned in the future. This will eventually complete the steel route and link the Moor to the gold route through the new retail quarter.
Castlegate and Sheaf Field
The old Castle Market has already been demolished, and work to uncover the ruins of Sheffield Castle are underway. Plans to uncover part of the River Sheaf and create an urban park have also been revealed. These new areas will form one end of a new steel route, which will take people from the southern end of the Moor to Victoria Quays.
Most of the city centre’s hotels are in this area, and the city council wants to create something to match the impact of the Cutting Edge sculpture outside the railway station, or the Peace Gardens.
Grey to Green
Work to turn the area around West Bar into an appealing plant-lined walkway next to Castlegate are well underway. The pavement areas around Sheffield Crown Court have been refurbished, with large areas of new plants and shrubs. These will potentially be enhanced by Love Square, a temporary open space on the corner of West Bar and Bridge Street. The idea is to create a relaxing space at the end of the steel route.
Across the centre
As both the city’s universities continue to grow, new blocks of flats are going up to house their students. The first students have signed up for flats in the £11 million complex known as the Gatecrasher Apartments, which are being built on the site of the former Gatecrasher nightclub, and a 1,000-bed student block is planned on the site of the Footprint Tools works in Hollis Croft. The trend of replacing Sheffield’s old industrial buildings with student accommodation shows no sign of slowing.