The next 12 months will be key for Sheffield's Olympic Legacy Park, according to the people behind the 'catalyst' £55 million development.
The 35-acre site of the former Don Valley Stadium in Attercliffe looks fairly empty today, with bare earth and trenches surrounding the two completed buildings, Oasis Don Valley Academy and UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
By the end of 2017 though, the area will have been completely transformed. An all-weather rugby league/union pitch will be finished and in regular use, while a basketball arena should be just about complete.
Should the Sheffield Eagles secure the investment they need, work could have begun on a stadium to surround the all-weather pitch.
New open spaces will be open to the public, and construction of Sheffield Hallam University's Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre should be well underway.
Project director David Hobson also hopes to have attracted the private investment needed for the office and laboratory space, designed to encourage collaboration between firms at the cutting edge of their field.
Mr Hobson pointed to the success of the University of Sheffield's Advanced Manufacturing Park - another partnership development - and the speed at which the UTC was finished, in just 40 weeks, as an example of why the Olympic Legacy Park, or OLP, would succeed.
"We believe we are one or two years ahead - although we are not counting our chickens, because who know what the future holds?
"The important thing is we get the private sector in so people can see it's more than a school and a college and sports pitches. That there are people working here.
"You get someone who puts his own money down and everyone is interested."
Connectivity has been key when planning the OLP. The site has a direct link to E.on's nearby Blackburn Meadows power plant, and the land - remediated with EU money - has been prepared as a whole, so private investors can start to build straight away.
Both Sheffield Council and city business leaders see the OLP, alongside the English Institute for Sport, as a catalyst for the regeneration of the Attercliffe area. Last month David Slater, of Attercliffe Action Development Group, said it was time to 'add teeth’ to the council's 10-year plan for the area - which had made little progress’ since it began in 2011 - and predicted up to £400 million of investment for the area.
Mr Slater's firm Spaces Sheffield this week welcomed two new companies to the G2 building, next to the OLP.
Mackenzie Spencer is a corporate finance firm, while Grey and Green is an accountancy practice.
Mr Slater said: “Mackenzie Spencer and Grey and Green have moved into the commercial heartland of the city. It’s an extremely exciting time and we’re pleased that they are here to be part of the continuing transformation of this area.”
Chris Sellars, managing director of both companies, added: “We are thrilled that our new home is in this prime area of regeneration.
"Attercliffe has seen a huge amount of change, redevelopment and investment in the last few years and we believe that by moving here, we will open up both businesses to new opportunities.”
The council has chosen Henry Boot Construction to develop the sports pitch and carry out the hard and soft landscaping of the whole site.
The firm’s operations director Tony Shaw said: “We are delighted to be involved in such a landmark scheme for Sheffield. It is great to see the project get underway and over the coming months the OLP will really start to take shape.”
Former sports minister Richard Caborn, project lead for the OLP, added: “It is so exciting to see the site really taking shape.
“The Oasis Academy Don Valley opened last September and has seen its first year of students through the doors. Building work was completed on the UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park campus earlier this month and it opened to students at the end of September. And the site’s landscaping and 3G community pitch are the next stages to get going.
“The landscaping will tie the sites various elements together and really bring it to life – creating extensive green space for both people and nature.”
The OLP was welcomed by the new president of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Darren Pearce, who visited as one of his first appointments.
Mr Pearce, also centre director at Meadowhall, called it a 'truly inspiring project'.
He added: “With the recent announcement of plans to regenerate the Attercliffe area, the OLP is already leading by example and embracing the huge potential for the sports, health and wellbeing agenda in our region.
“The UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and Oasis Academy Don Valley are both excellent facilities, providing innovative learning environments where young people across the region can recognise their full potential.
“It was great to have the opportunity to see first-hand how the site is developing and how the OLP is already putting Sheffield on the map.”
Olympic Legacy Park development timeline
Oasis Academy - completed and operational September 2015
UTC Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park - operational September 2016 after a construction period of 40 weeks
Infrastructure works (hard and soft landscaping) - began October 2016, due for completion late spring 2017
Community 3G pitch - On site late 2016, completion for UTC and Oasis Academy use in March 2017, and public use late spring 2017
Community basketball arena - on site early 2017, completion late 2017
Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre - on site late spring 2017, completion 12 months later
Private sector opportunities - unknown
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