It’s a common complaint from Sheffield people: “Well the plans look great, but are we ever going to see it happen?”
You can forgive a little scepticism. Sheffield people have seen major city centre developments, such as the multi-million pound Sevenstone scheme, come and go without a brick being laid.
But the time may finally have come for some optimism.
From the redevelopment of The Moor to a vision for Castlegate; from Sheffield Retail Quarter to Kelham Island; from Chinatown to the Digital Campus; all over the city cranes can be seen and buildings are rising from the ground.
Sheffield Council’s plan for the city centre is to attract investment and, more importantly, people. Residents, workers and visitors, all of whom will put money into the city’s economy.
Deputy leader Leigh Bramall said: “Sheffield going back into history has been a manufacturing city so we didn’t really have many people living in the city centre – certainly in the last 20, 30, 40 years – and nor did we have a lot of people working in the city centre. They were all working in the factories or little mesters workshops.
“As we move forward and the economy changes we really need to create that central business district that can attract the big office occupiers, the office jobs, we can have more people living and working in the city centre, and that footfall and the money in people’s pockets in the city centre helps to keep the shops, the bars and the restaurants sustainable.
“If we get that working it creates a vibrant, dynamic city centre that also attracts other businesses into the city centre.
“We are behind other cities because of our history, because we weren’t a major regional centre, being right on the border between Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands, and so that’s what we’re trying to achieve with a number of developments now.”
Sheaf and Cultural Industries Quarter
The view from Park Hill flats shows the city centre in its sharpest relief. Plenty of work has already been done to improve the approach for people stepping off trains into Sheffield, but there is more planned for an area which will grow in importance if HS2 and HS3 arrive.
Sheffield Hallam University has done plenty of work to improve the route up towards the heart of the city, and cafes and microbreweries are giving a new focus to the area around Sidney Street.
There is also the Digital Campus, led by Sheffield United co-owner Kevin McCabe’s Scarborough Group.
The project began in the midst of a recession and Mr McCabe’s ambition paid off, with close to full occupancy of the first two buildings and a third on the way.
“We have been working with Sheffield Hallam University to help them to bring more of their functions and campuses right into the middle of the city and improve the environment – widen the pavements and so on,” said Coun Bramall.
“There’s the cultural industries quarter, which people know about, and that sets the scene for the whole area from here right through to Castlegate to be an area which has a significant presence of creative and digital industries which Sheffield is acknowledged as being strong in.
“Electric Works is space that is specifically set aside for those kind of industries, and the smaller businesses to grow and become bigger businesses.
“The third office block is just about to be completed, and then there’s a fourth office block next to that of about eight storeys that is due to start sometime next year as well.
“So there are a number of things happening in this area which will help us move towards a much bigger number of jobs in those sectors.”
Sheffield can trace its origins to Castlegate, and the castle ruins that lie beneath the old market. The council has big plans for what was once a shopping destination.
“We think this area suits more of the smaller office occupiers,” said Coun Bramall. “We are doing a lot of work to bring that forward.”
Plans to expose the castle ruins and create a public attraction were slowed by a failed bid for Lottery funding, but groups including the Friends of Sheffield Castle are working on a solution.
The council also has plans to make Fitzalan Square a ‘much more attractive and open space that feels high quality like the Peace Gardens’.
Last month easyHotel revealed its plan to redevelop the old Primark building, part of which could be knocked down to make way for flats. Plans are also in place to bring vacant buildings such as the former Co-op store back into use.
Coun Bramall said: “We are hoping to preserve the Old Town Hall. The problem we have is that a number of these buildings are not in the ownership of the council – they are privately owned – so we have limited control over what we can do with them. But we are trying to work with a number of groups to push things forward.”
Close by is West Bar, where there is more development planned, such as Urbo’s £250 million West Bar Square, and a £30 million development by the council’s Chinese investment partner Sichuan Guodong Construction Group.
Coun Bramall said: “We are doing the Grey to Green work which is making that route pretty much from West Bar roundabout through to Park Square roundabout much more attractive – putting in trees and green spaces, and making it much more open for people to walk and cycle to help lift the whole area.
“We have also got a number of hotels in the area so we want to make it a better environment for everyone.”
Heart of the City, The Moor and Sheffield Retail Quarter
The various St Paul’s buildings, including the huge residential tower, have given the area between the Town Hall and Arundel Gate the feel of a modern city.
New restaurants around the Winter Gardens and Peace Gardens give more atmosphere in the evening, and the council wants to bring in more big business names.
Chinese investors are investigating the possibility of turning the Central Library into a five star hotel.
The first phase of the long-awaited Sheffield Retail Quarter is now underway, with the demolition of the Grosvenor House Hotel creating space for a new office block and shops.
Charter Square is being turned into a public open space, and a new cinema is due to open on The Moor next year.
Coun Bramall said: “This area we see as being right in the heart of the city and essentially where we want to create an environment where the likes of the architect firms, financial services firms want to come and locate. That’s what we did with bringing forward the change to the Peace Gardens and the Heart of the City project. People may know that the third block of the Heart of the City project has just been completed relatively recently and the council played a big role in bringing that forward right at the heart of the recession. And just behind us is where the new HSBC European IT headquarters is going to be. So you can really see this area starting to attract those kind of jobs and businesses to create more jobs and investment for everybody.
“If we get the retail quarter underway – and the first phase is already coming forward now, with the shops and the HSBC development – you are really creating that environment with potentially HS2 and HS3 just five minutes down the road. They can bring in thousands of jobs for not just Sheffield people but people all across the city region.”
Coun Bramall said footfall on The Moor was already increasing, and the area would become a ‘real focal point for retail in the centre of Sheffield’.
“There’s also residential planned for The Moor,” he added. “There are already people living above the Atkinson’s store. There’s a gym come in to the area, the market. I think people can really get a sense how the dramatic uplift in The Moor seems to be becoming a reality that people can see and touch now.”
University of Sheffield
The striking Diamond building is the latest addition to the University of Sheffield’s growing campus to the north west of the city centre.
Work on a masterplan aimed at creating more ‘public realm’ has been going on for years, and the latest evidence is the pedestrianisation of Portobello and Leavygreave Road.
Although plans to knock down The University Arms pub have attracted vocal opposition from real ale campaigners, the university is converting the old Henderson’s Relish factory into a pub.
Improvements to the Western Bank bridge, to create better pedestrian links across a busy road, also fall into the public realm category.
Coun Bramall said: “We work closely with our two world-class universities which have both done so much to advance the city’s regeneration in recent years.
“Work is well-advanced on the improvements to the University of Sheffield campus providing a high quality pedestrian and cycle friendly spine from the Arts Tower to St George’s, including much improved direct crossings of Western Bank and the Inner Ring Road. Meanwhile Hallam has invested in its campuses significantly.
“Students and graduates from the two universities can help stimulate new economic developments like Factory of the Future and the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, and provide the high level skills that the city needs.”
The hard-to-miss New Era Square development shooting up at the bottom of London Road, with a lift shaft dominating the skyline, will ‘substantially transform’ that area of the city, according to Coun Leigh Bramall.
The £65 million project includes a 21-storey residential tower, surrounded by shops and restaurants.
The development will also include a business ‘incubator’ – aimed at Chinese firms who want to establish a presence in the UK and local companies who want to explore opportunities in China.
“By having a Chinatown on the edge of the city centre it helps to contribute to that general building up of the restaurants, bars, the sense of vibrancy,” he said. “And there’s going to be a big residential tower with a lot more people with money to spend in their pockets.
“It’s that general pattern again of us trying to increase the density of people living and working in the city centre. There will be some Chinese business units in there as well and I think it’s quite an exciting project, as well as another attraction for the city centre for people to come in for leisure.”
Led by Jerry Chung and New Era Developments, Chinatown is separate from the council’s 60-year partnership with Sichuan Guodong Construction Co, signed in July.
Coun Bramall said: “There is a lot of Chinese money coming in to Sheffield, as in other cities. That’s good for us because it shows people see a future for Sheffield as a growing economy and they want to bring their money to spend and invest here.”
The transformation of Kelham Island from a former industrial heartland to a residential community with bars, cafes, shops and business is well underway. Blocks of flats already line the River Don, and work on the Little Kelham eco-home development is going well.
The newly-fashionable area will soon have better links to the city centre through the redevelopment of the area around St Vincent’s Church, to the south of Shalesmoor. Huge mixed use student and private residential blocks are planned, with new access routes aimed at creating better connectivity.
Its famed real ale pubs started the movement towards the area, and events such as the Peddler Night Markets are adding more atmosphere.
Coun Bramall said: “There’s no doubt that Kelham Island is undergoing a great transformation and our vision is for a thriving and distinct area that combines the best in modern living and independent traders, whilst retaining links to its vibrant history.
“It retains a distinctive atmosphere which is pure Sheffield. Although pioneered in part by apartments in Cornish Place and students, the latest developments on site include family houses with high sustainability ratings and are aimed at a more long-stay market.
“The area also offers an alternative nightlife including real ale pubs, a growing circuit of eating places, the Yellow Arch Studios venue and the Burton St Peddler Night Markets.”
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