Chinese investors this week held out the prospect of a £60m investment and 400 jobs as their ambitions for a residential, leisure and commercial development between Bramall Lane and London Road were spelled out.
They said they had previously checked London, Birmingham and Manchester before opting for Sheffield as their first major investment outside China, encouraged by Britain’s economic revival.
Factors included transport links and Sheffield’s two universities - and the World Snooker Championship at the Crucible. Snooker has a huge following in China.
Plans have been submitted to the council with a view to construction starting on New Era Square early next year, with the first phase to be completed by summer 2016.
It includes accommodation for 700 students alongside shops, including a large Chinese supermarket, cafes, restaurants and business ‘incubator’ units ‘to enhance enterprise and trade between China and the UK’. A 21-storey tower would be the most striking feature, overlooking a square for open-air events.
A consortium of six Chinese investors have put funds forward for the project, which is supported by the Chinese Consulate-General in Manchester. Sheffield architects Hadfield Cawkwell Davidson are working with New Era Development Ltd.
The project comes nine years after Sheffield businessman Jerry Cheung started to work on the idea of a Sheffield Chinatown. The concept has evolved - it initially included a casino and hotel - and survived the recession to emerge in a form that goes beyond Chinatown.
Mr Cheung, who is managing director of New Era Development Ltd, said: “Plans to redevelop the area have been discussed for more than a decade. These proposals will contain the spirit of those plans but with a more cosmopolitan feel incorporating all cultures, not just Chinese.”
He added: “The rewards could be massive for the city and region.”
Details of the scheme for land opposite St Mary’s Church will now be examined by the council.
Investor Jian Fei Qin said: “We are satisfied with the land purchase process and the planning application process. We are very pleased that the Sheffield government, business community and education sector have shown their strong support.”
Council cabinet member Leigh Bramall said the scheme built on the existing ‘cosmopolitan and bustling’ community of London Road.