A clean up, residential accommodation, bars, cafés and a specialist group are needed to help revitalise and reinvigorate one of Sheffield city centre’s key sites, according to its stakeholders.
They’re the findings of a report by Sheffield Business Improvement District on the state and future of Fargate as redevelopment of other city centre sites continues.
Work is continuing on the £500 million Heart of the City II project around Pinstone Street and Barker’s Pool, while The Moor continues to attract retailers and annual footfall rose to 13 million in 2018 – an increase of 16 per cent compared to 2017.
But stakeholders – made up of landowners and businesses on Fargate – said they thought it had been ‘overlooked’, ‘felt unsafe’ and looks ‘shabby’.
Both H&M and Next will move from Fargate to The Moor later this year but those interviewed as part of the report said the creation of a specialist task group and the addition of residential accommodation could help breathe new life into the street.
Diane Jarvis, Sheffield BID manager, said: “There are a lot of positive things happening in the city centre at the moment with Heart of the City II and The Moor but we are custodians for the entire city centre and Fargate is a important piece of that.
“It has some unique challenges in that, unlike The Moor, it’s quite fragmented in terms of its ownership. We originally launched this survey It was worth getting the views of stakeholders as to what could be done on Fargate moving forward.”
The report said that in the survey of stakeholders, Fargate was ‘universally seen as in a poor state of health’ but it added it had also been dealt a ‘tough hand’ by issues such as overrunning construction works, multiple ownership of buildings and 'scrappy street furniture’.
One stakeholder said: “Fargate has gone from the site of prime pitch, stretching into Pinstone Street to a poor quality pedestrianised high street. In days gone by it was a connector, but now it doesn’t really connect to anything and the activity in the centre is moving up the hill to be adjacent to the Peace Gardens.”
Stakeholders also raised concerns about the number of beggars and the effect they had on shoppers and retailers but the report added: “While people were generally negative about the current situation of Fargate – alongside other parts of the city centre – there was a clear passion and enthusiasm for change.”
A number of suggestions were put forward to help improve Fargate, with many claiming a single retail offering was not enough – living accommodation, hotels, office space, gyms, bars and restaurants could be added.
Ms Jarvis said: “I think the key point is that the aspects that come up in the report are not just unique to Fargate. We have problems with begging across the city centre and you could say the same that a clean up is needed elsewhere too.
“We would like Fargate to be very much about a destination. It’s predominantly been more retail in the past but there are lots of opportunities now to see how Fargate links in with the heart of the City II and The Moor and we have got to make sure that it’s not left behind and it's not overlooked.”
The report listed six key recommendations, including better use of the media as a force for positivity ‘rather than a place for complaints’, the creation of a ‘creative task group’ to share ideas.
Stakeholders also recommended carrying out an audit of the current state of Fargate, tackling beggars, which are ‘putting shoppers off’, improving lighting and a clan up of Fargate.
The report said: “It was made clear that there is no simple, single silver bullet. Rather there was a desire for an entrepreneurial approach that draws on a melange of types of intervention, sustained over a period of time.
“Short term wins will be essential for building that trust and confidence, that can be built on. Critically, many stakeholders thought that doing nothing was not an option and that immediate actions can help to demonstrate recognition of the challenges and intent to build a place that is vibrant and engaging for all groups with a blend of uses we want in out city centre.”
Ms Jarvis said there was an opportunity ‘to do something unique with Fargate.
She added: “Fargate should be a destination with activities that bring in visitors. There’s a whole host of opportunities going forward and if you can get a mix – not just retail – that would help with our Alive After Five campaign and while ever it’s solely retail you’re not going to get that.”
WHAT STAKEHOLDERS HAD TO SAY
“It is virtually dead after 5.30pm with little twilight activity. Activity around the theatres and F&D on Norfolk Row demonstrate that things can work if it is suitably attractive.”
“Fargate’s pedestrian area lends itself to having more restaurants and cafés but is there sufficient demand for them to be sustainable? It needs more of a purpose than a second rate shopping experience given its central location and heritage as the prime location.”
“Fargate is a key street, linking the two cathedrals, adjacent to the Town Hall. It is too important to leave to the tides of the market. It needs a plan.”
“The retail offer of Fargate is poor. It lacks diversity. There is an absence of brands. It is a lacklustre experience. The quirky and interesting parts of the city are outside of the city centre.”
“Fargate looks shabby - retailers are looking elsewhere and this trails down and joins to Fargate.”
“The focus needs to shift to a blend of uses; retail is not the only act. People living on Fargate, office space, gyms, retail collection points, hotels. It requires an acceptance of the changing uses of Fargate and its purpose within the city centre.”