Sheffield property experts have urged businesses to stop ‘hiding in the shadows’ of neighbouring cities and work together to bring in more investment.
Debating at the City Talks forum, some of Sheffield’s most influential people in the property sector singled out projects such as HS2/HS3 and Sheffield Retail Quarter as key to the region’s future.
They also called for a better Sheffield brand, which they said was ‘essential’ to the city’s success.
Event host Simon McCabe, chief executive of the Scarborough Group, cited the importance of Sheffield’s long-term relationship with China. Mr McCabe’s firm has done business in the Far East for many years, and helped pave the way for Sheffield Council’s 60-year investment deal with Sichuan Goudong Construction Group.
That deal should lead to significant developments in the city. The need for a five star hotel has already been mentioned by council chiefs.
On Sheffield’s appeal to potential investors, he said: “We need to be more confident with our offering, especially with occupiers now being more footloose and choosing regions rather than cities for their requirements.”
Also hosting was Rob Darrington, of Commercial Property Partners. His firm is involved in the Digital Campus development opposite the railway station, and he highlighted the importance of better transport links.
He said: “While Sheffield is rising up the table in terms of demand from occupiers, we have a tendency to sell ourselves short compared to our neighbouring cities.
“HS2 and HS3 could change all this. As a city, we are in a prime location to become the biggest transport hub of the north.
“We should maximise the benefits that come with that by working now to attract outside investment and occupier interest.”
The panel discussed the importance of a vibrant city centre to Sheffield’s appeal, both to residents and outsiders.
Sheffield Business Improvement District’s AliveAfter5 campaign launched this week, with a number of retailers pledging to open until 7pm every Thursday.
Mr Darrington added: “We need to emphasise the benefits of investing in city centre office space.
“There is plenty to attract larger firms to Sheffield. Commercial rent prices, and the cost of living, are both exceptionally low here, meaning employees are enjoying a higher quality of life on lower salaries than their equivalents in London, Leeds and Manchester.”
Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership board member Martin McKervey urged Sheffield to ‘get on the front foot’. He said: “This is about more than just transport. We have to present the investment opportunities for Sheffield that come with it.”
City Talks took place at Bramall Lane and was organised by Estates Gazette. It is hoped to be the first in a series.
After months of discussion and a Star campaign backed by scores of city business leaders, HS2 bosses scrapped plans to build a new station at Meadowhall.
HS2 now favours a ‘spur’ into Sheffield city centre and the existing railway station - a decision officials claim will save £1bn.
HS2 has said it believes the new route will be ‘cheaper, easier to construct, provide better connectivity and affect fewer people than the Meadowhall option’.
Visible progress on the long-awaited redevelopment of Sheffield city centre is now being seen, with the demolition of the Grosvenor House Hotel to make way for the new home of HSBC. A full planning application for phase two of the scheme is yet to be submitted.