More shops, restaurants and exciting things to do are on the horizon in Sheffield city centre - promising a vibrant future as schemes come to fruition.
The new retail quarter, now renamed Heart of the City 2, is about to further transform the middle of Sheffield with a fresh masterplan to be announced shortly, offering a timely opportunity to survey the new openings coming up .
The redevelopment of The Moor is quickly taking shape. Clothing chain Gap - which used to have a branch at the corner of Pinstone Street and Barker's Pool - is returning next month with a 9,000 sq ft outlet store beneath The Light cinema, next to Specsavers and JD Sports.
Demolition and refurbishments for the revamp's third stage begins this summer. Major fashion retailer Next is relocating from Fargate to a 42,000 sq ft shop where BHS used to be, while H&M and New Look are following suit by taking up a combined 52,000 sq ft of retail space on The Moor. H&M is earmarked for the spot where McDonald's previously stood, and New Look is filling the former Woolworths unit. The third phase, to be completed in 2019, will also include a bowling alley, Lane 7.
Spaces on the street are largely spoken for. There are around three slots left in phase two - the cinema complex - for restaurants and food outlets, with deals in the pipeline, and agents are speaking to further potential tenants for the third phase. However, it is not yet possible to put a figure on the number of units remaining in the next phase as construction work could be tailored to occupiers' needs, depending on the deals agreed.
On the other side of the city centre, the old Primark building on High Street is to be the focus of a major development. The site, left empty after the retailer also moved to The Moor, will be turned into a 131-bedroom easyHotel at a cost of £6 million. The 'super budget' hotel is expected to open in late summer, and there are also several commercial units factored in on the basement, ground and upper floors that agents are hoping to fill with up to five operators such as gyms, bars and restaurants.
Robert Lane, of property consultants Lane Walker, said it was hoped the first restaurant would be trading by the end of this year.
Talks are also being held with council planners about knocking down the western side of the former Primark, fronting Castle Square, and putting up a new block of residential flats that could reach 22 storeys, towering above its surroundings.
"The current building is not in a very good condition," Mr Lane said. Pre-application discussions had concentrated on a 'residential tower of some description with retail on the ground floor'.
The apartments would be made available for rent, he said, adding: "We're looking at the financial implications at the moment. It's all down to the cost of building these things. We will know where we are going within the next two to three months."
Leisure operators were thought to be far more appropriate for the hotel units than shops, said Mr Lane. "It's not really a retail pitch. This is more of a restaurant-based pitch, in my opinion. That's where Castlegate is going."
Nearby, the old Co-op department store is poised to become a £3 million home for entrepreneurial digital firms, accommodating up to 1,100 workers and opening for business in 2019.
Meanwhile a £5.5 million renovation of the disused National Union of Mineworkers headquarters on Holly Street, off Barker's Pool, is in progress. The scheme has encountered delays but the shell of the building will soon be ready.
Accountancy firm Grant Thornton has signed up for offices there and three restaurants are occupying units on the ground floor. Turtle Bay, which serves Caribbean food, is launching in June, while stylish bar chain Pitcher and Piano is opening in one of the other spaces this summer. The third restaurant is 'not decided yet', said Matt Stephens of developer Quest Property.
"Turtle Bay is going to be really positive and vibrant for the city centre," said Mr Stephens.
Casual dining outlets were having a 'tough time', he admitted, citing struggling Italian chain Prezzo's mass closure of 100 restaurants as an example. But he stressed: "Operators that are 'wet led' - food and drink - are doing pretty well I think, which is why we targeted people more in that sector. Turtle Bay will be a drinking establishment as well as offering food. But independents are important as well, I'm not saying we're just going after chains. They are an important part of schemes."
A variety of novel independent cafés and restaurants are in the works elsewhere. The Plant, a vegan bakery, will arrive on Campo Lane in mid-March, while seafood establishment Cargo Hold is opening this spring on Church Street at Cairns Chambers, a historic building empty for 15 years. Portuguese custard tarts - Pastéis de Nata - are on the menu for the city centre too; Lisboa, a specialist patisserie, has lodged a planning application to trade at St Paul's Parade, next to the Peace Gardens.
There is space for fashion, restaurants, cafés and bars in Grosvenor House, the new block mainly intended as offices for HSBC bank at Charter Square which represents the first phase of the new retail quarter. Construction is well under way and the building is to open next year.
The council is gearing up to reveal details of the second stage of Heart of the City 2, confirming whether John Lewis will get a replacement store or stay put, albeit undergoing an extensive makeover. A plan will be needed for Leah's Yard on Cambridge Street, where old industrial workshops hold the potential for different uses, from boutique shops to craft studios, and the retail quarter is being looked at as a likely site for a new £20 million Central Library in a multi-purpose venue.
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, said: "Sheffield is undergoing a transformation bigger than any I’ve seen in my time as a councillor. Everywhere you look there’s exciting news to report, cranes on the horizon, new ideas and energy coming through, from digital start-ups through to exciting leisure providers and major global innovators - whether it’s the new leisure and exciting public spaces on the Moor, the heart of the city development on Pinstone Street or the transformation of Castlegate and the launch of the city’s new digital incubator at Castle House. What’s especially pleasing is the number of people choosing to make their home in Sheffield – benefiting from the city’s undoubted outdoor city credentials and opportunities for all ages."
'Don't leave Fargate behind'
A wider shift in Sheffield city centre will change the face of Fargate, which needs a rethink as other areas come to the fore.
Next, New Look and H&M are moving to The Moor, and offices at Fargate House are being turned into nearly 50 flats above jewellers H. Samuel, bringing residents on to the street.
"It's all positive change, definitely," said Diane Jarvis, manager of the city centre business improvement district, a body that funds initiatives through a levy on firms.
"We're absolutely delighted to see progress being made on Heart of the City 2 and there are some great things happening on Fargate, with the development of Fargate House. That's going to have a positive impact on the area."
But Ms Jarvis called for a strategy to be drawn up addressing the future of Fargate and High Street.
"What we would like to see is a more mixed-use feel around those areas so there's hospitality, retail and leisure mixed in together, so people are not walking 10 minutes in one direction for leisure, and 10 minutes in another for retail and hospitality. As units become available that does create an opportunity to consider collectively as a city how they are used. We are going to see some churn as retailers move down to The Moor and in to the New Retail Quarter."
The use of card shop Clintons' empty premises as a pop-up store must not set a trend, she said. "Where quite a lot of units become vacant on Fargate, that's always a concern - that we get too many pop-up shops in that area. We want premium brands."
The fate of Division Street requires thought, she said. Companies like Costa Coffee have moved out, but new faces such as Pieminister and coffee franchise Mangobean are springing up too.
"Division Street will be a feeder into the retail quarter, but we want to look at how we support it, and Fargate and High Street. We need to make sure they come along on the journey as well and are not left behind."
A mixed-use approach to the city centre would strengthen the BID's Alive After Five campaign to generate a busier atmosphere after 5pm. "It's a long-term strategy, it's not going to change people's behaviour overnight. Just having stores in silos does not work for a great consumer experience."