Sheffield’s £400 million Retail Quarter is at a tipping point where retailers feel “they have to be in it,” a council chief said.
Simon Green, executive director of place, said firms could see it was going to happen, work had started and the rest of the city centre was on the up.
Speaking at the first Sheffield Business Conference at the Holiday Inn in the city centre, he said: “Next year should hopefully break the back of the Sheffield Retail Quarter. The more success we have, we start to get a critical mass and people think, ‘I have to be in the city centre’.”
He said that demolition of the Grosvenor House Hotel had started, to make way for an HSBC office block for 2,700 workers.
The redevelopment of The Moor, Grant Thornton moving into the old NUM building and a planned HS2 station had all boosted the city centre.
Mr Green said he also hoped John Lewis would feel the need to sign up “sooner rather than later”.
The retailer was monitoring “flows” and changes in the city centre very closely, he added.
“Generally our relationship with them is very healthy and some weeks it feels like we are getting somewhere.
“But at this point no retailer would have signed up, they want to know who is going in and the flow and retail patterns in areas such as The Moor.
“We are in a positive position, although you could argue it is 20 years too late.”
Mr Green outlined how the council had signed developer Hammerson in 2005 and “amicably” parted ways in 2013 after four years without progress.
But this had a silver lining because gated shopping malls – as had been planned – had fallen out of fashion.
The Sheffield Retail Quarter is set to be a mix of offices, retail, residential, leisure and education and be “open access” at all times.
He added: “Very few, if any malls are being built now. City centres will be less retail focused and have more of a mix. It’s going to be the first of the new rather than the last of the old.”
The first phase is set to open in 2019, he added.