THE long-delayed project for the £600m Sevenstone retail quarter in Sheffield has passed another milestone with the completion of a development agreement that underlines the commitment of the developers and the council.
It’s another major step forward towards reshaping the city centre between Barkers Pool, Pinstone Street and Moorhead with new shops anchored by a bigger John Lewis store.
If the recession had not taken its toll, the retail quarter could be preparing to open. With another hurdle overcome, the latest estimate is late 2013 or early 2014.
After the setbacks, there are still no guarantees that construction will eventually begin but all parties are more confident now that a new development agreement has been signed by London-based developers Hammerson and the council before next month’s deadline for completing the compulsory purchase programme.
Council chief executive John Mothersole said: “This plane is now on the runway. Until recently it was in the hangar.”
He added: “It’s a huge step forward and it has surprised a few people in the industry that we have been able to get to this point. It’s been tough but Hammerson has stuck with us, although we are all realistic that there are still some milestones to achieve.”
The agreement reflects a belief by the developers that the project to bring a range of modern and bigger shops to the city centre can be profitable.
Terms for the delivery have been agreed between the council, Hammerson and the Government’s Homes and Communities Agency.
Hammerson project director Richard Brown said: “Formalising the development agreement is the latest milestone for the scheme and is a fundamental part of the project’s delivery. Following months of hard work, it demonstrates commitment from both sides to the continued regeneration of the city centre.”
Coun Helen Mirfin–Boukouris, cabinet member for business, jobs and growth, said: “We have been committed to this scheme since its inception and are now driving it forward with our partners creating jobs, opportunities and economic growth for Sheffield.”
Despite the uncertainty of the economic climate, Sevenstone is essentially being driven by research that indicates that Sheffield lacks the type of large modern shops to compete with the likes of Leeds, Manchester and Nottingham.
While the concept of blocks of shops and precincts – not an indoor shopping complex – remains the same since it was devised ten years ago, some design elements are being reassessed to reflect market conditions.
In particular, it remains to be seen whether John Lewis moves to a new building on the site of the former Wellington Street fire station or opts for a redevelopment of its existing premises.
Hammerson has spent £60m since 2001 on planning and design fees, property acquisitions, moving power cables and gas mains and relocating the fire station to Eyre Street.
It has also agreed to take up the slack to complete the CPO programme after Yorkshire Forward, the Government-backed development agency, withdrew its offer of £9.5m and to repay the council’s £10m contribution once construction has started.