Plans for a new Sheffield city centre retail quarter are set to go ahead – after councillors vowed to go it alone without a private developer.
But Sheffield Council says it does have interest from property developers – and aims to have the scheme built by 2019.
The authority ended its agreement with property firm Hammerson in the summer for the Sevenstone development, after four years of delays.
Now it says it could set up a council-owned organisation called a ‘collaborative development vehicle’ to begin ‘delivering’ elements of the scheme, between Barker’s Pool, The Moor and Charter Square.
But the council says it would still like to bring in a commercial partner for the bulk of the project.
The council-run organisation would be used to develop some of the scheme in the same way as the council has delivered the £17 million Moor Markets scheme.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “The project needs to be as flexible as possible at the outset.
“A CDV could allow a much more controlled approach to delivery, providing flexibility and mitigating risk.
“There is certainly confidence in the city and interest in taking a retail development forward.
“We want a high-quality retail offer for the city centre to compliment what is already available.
“Our vision is more than just the new retail quarter. We want a commercial centre for Sheffield and the wider city region that can attract investment and jobs to the area.”
The council says it has ownership of the land and utilities in place – plus the ability to borrow an estimated £30 million against future business rates to help cover the cost of the development.
The Labour-run authority has faced criticism from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, Liberal Democrat MP for Sheffield Hallam, over delays to the project, which was planned to have been built five years ago.
But Coun Julie Dore, council leader, said: “At a time when we are faced with unprecedented cuts across the board we retain our ambition for Sheffield.
“We are committed to attracting business and development, to creating and protecting jobs, to standing up for Sheffield.
“Despite the weak economic recovery we have seen in the past three years, we have been working with other private sector partners on new developments across the city, such as the £40 million new Moor development.
“There’s no reason why the new retail quarter can’t go ahead now. We’re in a strong position with the viable package we have on the table.”
The council said the quarter will include up to 800,000 sq feet of retail space with extensive food and entertainment venues along with a multi-storey car park and high-quality public open spaces.
A spokeswoman said: “The council sees the need for the scheme to be delivered as a whole. However, there could be opportunities for the delivery of early elements, such as infrastructure and demolition through the collaborative development vehicle.
“Following a review of the new retail quarter scheme, we will be ready to take the scheme back to the market place for a new private partner during January to March 2014.
“Progress is being made and the council has a target for completion during 2018/19.”