The company chosen to help transform the fortunes of Sheffield city centre has an ‘impressive’ history of development.
Sheffield Council yesterday revealed Queensberry Real Estate as its preferred development partner for the £480m retail quarter project.
The firm, based in Mayfair, London, has a portfolio of modern city centre redevelopment projects. Chief executive Paul Sargent yesterday said his team had been focused on winning the ‘major instruction for 18 months’, and the council hopes Queensberry’s track record will help create another successful project in Sheffield.
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Among the developer’s recent projects is the £117m Friar’s Walk in Newport. Opening in November 2015, it comprises 390,000 sq ft of retail and leisure space, including a Debenhams department store, and eight-screen cinema and a range of shops and restaurants.
In the first six month of opening, the city centre development brought in five million visitors.
Queensberry also worked on the redevelopment of SouthGate in Bath, including the refurbishment of the city’s Grade II listed railway station, and the 800,000 sq ft Victoria Square in Belfast, which features a glass dome and covered streets.
Among the firms now trading in those areas are House of Fraser, Urban Outfitters, Apple and Wagamama.
And the company is involved in the project to restore Manchester Corn Exchange and bring in independent retailers and restaurants.
Locally, Queensberry has been appointed as development manager by Barnsley Council to redevelop Barnsley Markets.
Sheffield Council’s deputy leader Leigh Bramall said the appointment of Queensberry was a ‘significant step forward’ in the delivery of the retail quarter, which would ‘provide a transformational development in the heart of our city centre’.
He added: “Queensberry bring an impressive track record of delivering thoughtful and successful schemes that respond to the rapidly changing retail environment. We look forward to working with Queensberry as we refine the plans for the Sheffield Retail Quarter.”
The partnership was welcomed by the British Council of Shopping Centres, which is the professional body for retail property. Acting chief executive Edward Cooke said: “This announcement demonstrates how local councils can use their leadership positions to collaborate with private sector investors and developers to support the regeneration of towns and cities – serving local communities and acting as a catalyst for further investment and employment.
“Proactive and positive local authority engagement, such as that in Sheffield, is critical in the context of the devolution revolution – with central Government offering councils increased flexibility over planning and development matters, as well as more control over local taxation in the future.”
Away from the city centre, Meadowhall has revealed plans for a £300m leisure hall extension.
Readers on the Star’s Facebook page were sceptical about the latest retail quarter announcement.
Tony Makin didn’t think the council could afford the scheme, saying it had been ‘talked about for decades’ and would ‘never happen’. He added: “The main two shopping centres in the north are in Leeds and Manchester. Sheffield cannot compete.
Luke Ashmore said it would only work ‘if they have affordable parking to compete with free parking at Meadowhall’.
David Hague said: “Without a better transport system that operates into the late evening, this will be doomed to failure. It’s too easy for First to stop running evening buses and expect Sheffield Community Transport or TM Travel to pick up the slack. Make them provide a comprehensive service or pull the routes from them.”
Paul Metcalf had a number of suggestions, including getting rid of pedestrianised streets, reducing rents and improving the quality of retailers.
Darren Thompson said it was ‘about time some money was spent on Sheffield’, and Mikey Hulmes asked: “Anyone think this will actually happen?”