New neighbourhood will be created in Sheffield city centre with offices and apartments
“People are still going to want office space. It’s nonsense to think no one is going to work in offices in the future.”
So says Neil Jones of Sheffield Council, one of the people who has been working on a new multi-million pound development in the city centre.
West Bar Square promises to revitalise Riverside, Kelham and Castlegate and remove a “physical and psychological barrier” between Burngreave and the city centre.
It will create a new neighbourhood of Grade A office space, which the council says is sorely lacking in the city centre, apartments, bars and restaurants and green space.
“We all started the first three months of working from home thinking it wasn’t too bad but I think everybody’s sick to death of it now and the productivity of not being in offices is having an impact,” Mr Jones told a Cabinet meeting.
“There will definitely be demand for offices, but they need to be better quality, more flexible and of a very high standard, which is exactly what we’re delivering here.
“We had a call this week from one of the agents acting for us and there’s somebody potentially interested in taking a third of the building in one go so we’ll be following that up next week.
“This development is twice the size of the scheme around St Paul’s Place and it’s not far off the size of Heart of the City so it’s massive.
“When the whole development is built it’s probably in the region of £350m. This first phase that we’re bringing forward now is £150m in a single hit so this is big stuff.
“Trying to get a site of this size in a single ownership in the city centre is really very rare and it does mean that we can bring forward large scale offices, which you can’t really get elsewhere in the city centre, so this is quite a unique opportunity.”
The initial phases of the development secures £150m of private sector investment from Legal and General, planning applications have been submitted and it’s hoped work will start on site by the end of this year.
The council has taken a lease on an office, to be known as Number 1 West Bar Square, which has been designed to very high environmental standards, with extra ventilation and space for a post-Covid workforce.
Once that first office is completed and has sufficient tenants, there’s a second office planned by Legal and General. And a third office building is on the cards – its developers Urbo were about to sign up a blue chip occupier last summer but had to pause the deal due to Covid.
The site will also include Soyo Yard, build-to-rent apartments which will be developed and owned by Legal and General. And there’s a multi storey 450 space car park plus hundreds of spaces for bikes.
The long standing project goes back to the days of the inner relief road. Mr Jones said: “This is a large, pretty derelict part of the city centre, which acts as quite a barrier for people who live in Burngreave to walk into town because it has quite a hostile feel to it.
“If you’re walking from Burngreave down Chatham Street, and similarly if you’re coming along from Kelham, you effectively walk into a brick wall. There are really high retaining walls, brick structures, which make it really quite an unpleasant place to be.
“This will get rid of all of those walls and you’ll have a good new level route that takes you in through public space and wind your way up into the city centre that way.
“We’ve just finished the compulsory purchase order process, we’ve now acquired all the land and all of the businesses which were on the site have now been relocated successfully.”
The large floor space and the fact it’s very close to the Department for Work and Pensions, Home Office and Department for Education makes it attractive for government relocations
The council is already talking to the Government Property Agency and says these would be new jobs created, not relocations of staff from London.
Mr Jones added: “The buildings are being designed to very high environmental standards and the developers, at their own cost, are extending the Grey to Green project that we’ve put in West Bar and around Castlegate.
“That will create almost a new neighbourhood for people to pass through, to sit in cafes and bars. It’s all about expanding the city centre into that area and generating more jobs and homes.”
“The build-to-rent apartments will be developed by Legal and General and are high quality with long term tenancy agreements.
“Legal and General are doing this across the country, particularly in northern cities, and are looking at creating places where people want to put down roots but don’t necessarily want to buy so they offer two or three year tenancy agreements. These are one, two and three bedroom apartments so quite a good mix.”
There’s a requirement for the council to take a 40 year lease for its office and that is a risk but
the council has a loan from the Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas and very low rent payable to Legal and General.
The development will provide more than 500 construction jobs with the potential for 6,000 new jobs once completed. Contractors will be encouraged to employ local workers and to create apprenticeships.