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Great Central: How £22 million apartments will ‘raise the bar’ in Sheffield

It is the single biggest private residential development being built in Sheffield today, bringing scores of new apartments and several retail units to an elevated spot with impressive city views.

And Great Central - a project worth more than £22 million that is under way opposite The Riverside pub on the edge of Kelham Island - will have an effect all of its own, says architect David Cross, managing director of Coda Studios which is based nearby.

How Great Central will look.

How Great Central will look.

"This kind of scheme raises the bar and sets new standards," he says.

Great Central's first phase - which replaces the old Bubbles car wash - will comprise 131 flats and two commercial units, in a series of blocks ranging from four to nine floors in height, clustered around a courtyard. The second stage, on the corner of Chatham Street and Mowbray Street, will feature a further 92 apartments, one commercial unit and another landscaped yard. The homes will be one, two and three-bedroom apartments and studio flats. 

Both phases have planning permission and construction is expected to take two-and-a-half years.

Coda's design - a red brick exterior livened up with zinc panels - echoes the look of Brewery Wharf, a building handled by the company just across the road in 2006.

David Cross, founder of Coda Studios, at the site of Great Central - a development that will bring scores of residential apartments and several commercial units. Picture: Chris Etchells

David Cross, founder of Coda Studios, at the site of Great Central - a development that will bring scores of residential apartments and several commercial units. Picture: Chris Etchells

"It's a durable, Sheffield design. It's nice brickwork detailing, we've got central gardens, terraces - it will be a phenomenal scheme. We're really proud of this."

The firm is a member of the Sheffield Property Association. The Star is focusing on the mission of the SPA – which aims to be the ‘collective voice of property in Sheffield’ and was the first organisation of its kind outside the capital – through a series of features looking at major ventures supported by its 46 members, a diverse group including developers, the universities, planning consultants, solicitors and commercial agents.

The Riverside and Brewery Wharf helped to kickstart regeneration on the side of Kelham south of the River Don, but since the recession the area 'hasn't had much attention', says David. Coda, however, is working to change this alongside a fellow Sheffield outfit, Broadfield Project Management, and Qualis, the development arm of Manchester's Knight Knox. Other local schemes - Bell's Court, Dun Fields, Bento, Palatine Gardens - were delivered in the same way, and there are two more proposals in the pipeline.

"We've brought a massive investment to this part of the city. This will be the biggest private residential scheme in the city, that's not student-driven, that's on site."

How Great Central will look.

How Great Central will look.

It will address a 'huge shortage of housing', David says. The flats will be available to buy, with advertised prices starting from £110,000 for a one-bed apartment.

"There will be some buy-to-let investors, I would guess. It'll be a blend. It won't be owned by one institution. This is a classic city centre development that's open market."

An application has been made to Homes England to provide Help to Buy assistance, 'which will allow first-time buyers to get on the property ladder'.

Great Central, David says, is 'not driven purely by economics'. "It's meant to be beautiful. But that's what we try to do with all our schemes."

How Great Central will look.

How Great Central will look.

It is an expensive development, all told. "We've worked really hard together to make it viable. In the city region we have this constant argument about affordable housing contributions and things like that – Sheffield is a lower-cost city, so viability is a major problem. You can't just do beautiful designs that don't stack up."

The site of Great Central would once have been terraced houses, which were knocked down in the 1950s.

"It was back-to-back housing all over," confirms David. "We want to get that density back."

The first phase will create a 'sense of arrival', he thinks, on the south side of the Don, where things like the on-trend Cutlery Works food hall are springing up. "We're definitely seeing a lot more interest," David says.

And there is land left for development in Kelham Island and neighbouring Neepsend, held by owners waiting for the right time to bring plots into use. "It depends what angle you take on regeneration. Is it appropriate to move businesses out of these areas? That's the fine line. Who is worthy of staying and who's not, and who makes that decision? Ultimately it's market forces."

More cranes then ever can be seen on the Sheffield skyline, and the city carries more confidence than before, David observes.

"You would argue Brexit should have dampened that - it hasn't, not yet. We haven't had one scheme pulled. Our order book's never been as busy, I think it's something like £200 million of construction projects in the region. That's serious money. Even in 2006/7, at the height of the last boom, we weren't as busy as this. It definitely feels different."