Times have changed since the idea of a new shopping development for Sheffield city centre was first mooted – all the way back in 2001.
The new retail quarter proposals follow the shelving of the £400 million Sevenstone scheme last year, which marked the end of a long-running saga involving delays caused by the recession.
The council parted company with Hammerson as it wouldn’t meet planned timescales, and earlier this year revealed plans for a Sheffield Investment Fund to attract development and investment partners.
Now bosses have worked to update ideas on what a shopping centre should be – although plans are still coming together.
The quarter is expected to be around 600,000 square feet in size and create 2,000 retail jobs.
It will be ‘future proofed’ by being flexible for other uses – such as residential accommodation and offices.
And the council says it would have to not only be sympathetic to the design of the city centre, but also ‘in step’, with accessible shops at street level, and digital age infrastructure in place for ‘click and collect’ shopping.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for business, admitted the concept of a new shopping development was even older than the time he had been a councillor.
He said: “The public of Sheffield are desperate for a new retail quarter.
“They want new shops, a bigger range of shops. The Hammerson scheme would have delivered that, it wasn’t possible, so we are moving on and are absolutely confident that this will do the same.
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of the retail quarter for the city, it’s not just about getting new shops.
“We need it to be able to compete with other major cities.
“When you look at it in that respect I think it is worth investment and you would certainly expect to get that money back.”
The £55m needed to purchase properties would be borrowed from the Public Works Board and the council said it would ‘hold that value’.
Nalin Seneviratne, director of capital and major projects, said there were about 24 developers that wanted to be involved.
He added: “That’s a better position than we have ever been in with the quarter, and it’s a really exciting one.”
The council says it hopes to have a development partner by next spring and for demolition to start in 2015.
Asked if the timescale of completion in just six years was realistic, Mr Seneviratne added: “It’s an ambitious timescale but with the position of the economy it is absolutely the right time to get on as quickly as we can.”
Retail quarter in numbers:
£55m - The amount of money the council plans to borrow to buy properties
600,000 - Square feet is the size of the expected new retail quarter
24 - Developers are said to be interested in being involved
2,000 - Jobs could be created by the new retail quarter