Five developers are now in the running to build Sheffield’s long-awaited new retail quarter, The Star can exclusively reveal today.
The five firms left will be reduced to three main rivals before a final partner to work with Sheffield Council is eventually chosen – expected to be by the end of this year.
It comes as public consultation comments reveal what the people of Sheffield really want from the £480m development, which replaces the failed Sevenstone scheme.
Supporting independent shops and pop ups, bringing in aspirational brands that ‘stop people travelling to Leeds’ and giving it a distinctive Sheffield character were among the top 10 items on shoppers’ wish lists.
One comment read: “It needs character so that Sheffield can be proud of it.”
The timescale was also crucial for residents who have waited years for Sheffield city centre to become a shopping destination.
Another wrote: “Only promise what can happen – Sheffield folk have had too many false dawns.”
Public consultation on the retail quarter closed two weeks ago and the next stage is for outline plans to be prepared.
More than 500 people completed written forms and 3,500 visited an exhibition as the council urged people to help shape plans for the long-awaited shopping destination.
The top 10 themes also include improved cycling provision, the conservation of heritage buildings, incorporating green spaces and easy as well as cheaper parking.
On the type of shops they wanted to see, one resident said: “We need shops that attract spenders. Stop them travelling to Leeds.”
Others said it ‘would be nice to see designer brands’ and ‘higher end shops should get a priority’.
But residents were also calling for Sheffield’s much-loved independent shops to benefit and be included.
“Let’s support entrepreneurial independent retailers as part of the quarter,” said one resident.
And another added: “Independents are what set Sheffield’s offerings apart from Leeds.”
The Star obtained 100 of the public comments made as part of the Sheffield Council consultation.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for development and deputy leader, said: “If you look at the shops on Division Street a number of those want this quarter to happen because if footfall goes up their businesses will benefit far more.
“Whether they could be part of the scheme or not has yet to be determined but the scheme has been designed to benefit the rest of the city centre.”
Parking was also a key concern for shoppers.
One wrote: “Meadowhall offers free parking. No matter how awkward access to town centre is for cars, bus travel will never appeal to these drivers who want comfort, cleanliness and convenience.”
Part of the scheme includes parking for up to 2,000 cars.
Coun Bramall said it was unlikely car parking would be free as part of the scheme, but said that the new city centre business improvement district was addressing parking in the city.
He said consultation comments would be taken on board where possible and the next stage was to ‘push forward’ with outline plans.
He added: “The five developers will be whittled down to three and then one, towards the back end of the year.
“There are a variety of developers interested.”
Cyclists also made their voices heard during the consultation – stressing it was important to have ‘plenty of bike parking close to shops, cycling works if you can cycle direct to your destination’. Another said ‘stop putting cyclists and pedestrians in conflict with each other while prioritising the convenience of motor traffic’.
Shoppers differed over the idea of pedestrianising the area where the quarter could be, between Fargate, Barker’s Pool and Charter Square, with some for and some against.
Others felt a priority should be the conservation of existing buildings, including the Salvation Army building and Leah’s Yard, which are included in the current retail quarter plan.
One added: “The design of new buildings should be inspired by the area’s heritage and be sympathetic to the conservation area.”
Residents did seem to agree on the importance of including green spaces, asking for more public squares for families to relax in, ‘green roofs’ and play areas as well as architecture that ‘reflects’ the city’s green reputation.
And they were also united on the need for speed in bringing the idea to fruition, many years after it was first mooted, with a swift timetable so it did not ‘drag on’.
‘This needs to resolve the confidence of the people after so many failed attempts,” wrote one resident.
Another added: “Can’t wait to see this happen.”
“It’s time to make this happen,” wrote a third.