First look inside Sheffield's new £65m Chinatown

Sheffield's Chinatown as it will look when completed
Sheffield's Chinatown as it will look when completed
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Sheffield's new £65 million Chinatown development, which is set to welcome its first residents this autumn, will include penthouses with views of the Bramall Lane pitch.

The huge complex taking shape just south of the city centre, between London Road and the Blades' home ground, will eventually accommodate 589 students in rented studio flats.

Jerry Cheung with architects Robert Bancroft and Tom Lawerence inside one of the finished student apartments at the Chinatown development in Sheffield

Jerry Cheung with architects Robert Bancroft and Tom Lawerence inside one of the finished student apartments at the Chinatown development in Sheffield

It will also contain 14 private apartments for sale, including two penthouses at the top of a 21-storey tower looming over the ring road and St Mary's Church.

Jerry Cheung, managing director New Era Development (NED), the company behind the scheme, said the penthouses would enjoy good views of the Bramall Lane pitch.

"We're selling season tickets," he joked, before disappointing any Sheffield United fans with a few bob to spare by revealing both penthouse flats had already been snapped up.

Building work began in winter 2015 at the Boston Street site, which was home to a mix of vacant semi-industrial units along with the longstanding Chinese supermarket which remains.

The Chinatown development as it looks now

The Chinatown development as it looks now

Phase one of the project is rapidly taking shape and the first 100 student apartments are due to open this September.

Another 200 student flats are due to be finished next January and the entire scheme is scheduled for completion in summer 2019.

As well as hundreds of flats and a students' common room, the complex will contain a handful of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars, along with an oriental supermarket.

At its heart will be a public square measuring around 1,200sqm - roughly the size of four-and-a-half tennis courts.

How the Chinatown development will look, with London Road in the background

How the Chinatown development will look, with London Road in the background

Jerry hopes New Era Square, as it will be called, will host events around the year, from Chinese New Year and Diwali celebrations to activities for Sheffield Food Festival and MADE Festival.

The development will also be home to a 'Chinese Business Incubator', set up to help local companies explore potential links with China and for Chinese companies seeking to invest in the UK.

For Jerry, the project marks the realisation of a 12-year dream to create a Chinatown in Sheffield, but a very different one to those found in London or Manchester

Standing in the construction site, amid the din of the machinery, he explains he still has to pinch himself to believe it's really happening.

The bathroom in one of the student flats

The bathroom in one of the student flats

"I first had this vision in 2005 because I wanted to do something for the community - not just the Chinese community but for everyone in Sheffield," he said.

"It's not going to be a Chinatown like the ones in Manchester or London. I want it to be more inclusive, like the Times Square of Sheffield.

"The square will be the focal point and there will be a variety of food, drink and retail outlets - not just oriental shops - for everyone to enjoy. It's all about inclusiveness, not creating a little Chinese world."

The 55-year-old father-of-two was born in Hong Kong and came to the UK as a 13-year-old. After graduating, he worked for five years for British Steel as a mechanical engineer before going into business on his own as an investor.

When he first arrived in the UK, he says he could walk all day in the city without seeing another Chinese person, but today he estimates the city is home to at least 20,000 people from his native country, including students.

The oriental supermarket already on site must be one of Sheffield's oldest Chinese businesses, having been running for more than 40 years, according to Jerry.

One of the student apartments, which will cost between 145 and 175 to rent

One of the student apartments, which will cost between 145 and 175 to rent

He says he initially bought it five years ago with the sole intention of developing the land but it is now at the heart of a growing food empire, KH Oriental Group, which will include cash and carry stores in Sheffield's Parkway Retail Park and in Derby and will have a turnover of £10m within 12 months.

The supermarket itself will move into the new development once the first phase has been completed, enabling work to begin on the phase two, including the spot where it currently stands.

Robert Bancroft, an associate at the Sheffield firm HCD Architects, which designed the complex, says the new development will create a connection linking the bustling bars and restaurants of London Road and the city centre, as well as becoming a destination in its own right.

The first show room has just gone on display and it is not your typical student hovel, with the luxury studio apartment including a sofa, en suite shower and high-speed wireless internet access.

But the student lodgings come with a price tag to match, costing between £145 and £175 a week to rent, depending on the size and the views.

Jerry says there has already been plenty of interest and he hopes it will become home to students of all backgrounds, not just Chinese people.

His son is studying for his A-levels and Jerry says if he gets a place at one of Sheffield's universities he could be among those living in the plush apartments.

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Inside what will be the student common room

Inside what will be the student common room