Sheffield is the largest under-developed city left in the UK – and the biggest opportunity, according to the company hired to develop the Retail Quarter.
Stuart Harris, of Queensberry Real Estate, said all other big cities now had shopping centres – leaving Sheffield as a ‘flashing beacon’ to operators who were starting to queue up to be here.
“It is the largest opportunity for retail development in the UK, without doubt. All the others have been done. Sheffield is like a flashing beacon.
“I have good relations with most of the leading retailers and operators and no one has needed Sheffield selling to them. That’s a massive opportunity and we want the best of those operators.”
In an exclusive interview with The Star, Mr Harris said they were targeting premium brands that would not compete with The Moor or Fargate and would “lift the city” and be “the envy of other cities in the UK and Europe.”
Queensberry has been hired by Sheffield City Council as strategic development partner on the £480 million scheme.
And he revealed big-name companies were ‘starting to queue up’ to be part of the completed project.
Mr Harris said: “What we love about Sheffield is that it’s a major city and there’s a major gap in the market for what should be there: a combination of uses and quality operators.
“The site is in an almost perfection location between The Moor and Fargate and the offices in the heart of the city.
“It also has a great public realm and ‘arrival experience’ from the station. They all make Sheffield stand out.
“The negative, that’s also a positive, is the lack of quality retail and food and beverage provision.
“Compared to Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh, it’s nowhere near the same.
“Where we see a gap is in the mid level and up, we don’t want to compete with The Moor and Fargate, we want something that complements them and lifts the quality of Sheffield, anecdotally, people are going to Manchester and Leeds for that.
“The market has changed a lot over the last 10 years, now you need a good retail and leisure offer together including shops, restaurants, residential, offices and hotels.”
Mr Harris cited ‘leading international and UK brands’ including Zara, Massimo Dutti, Cos, Weekday, and the White Company as examples.
And although Sheffield has Meadowhall, the catchment is big enough for both, as in Manchester and Newcastle, he said.
He also said he hoped to stage a ‘big reveal’ of a reviewed masterplan and an anchor tenant in 12 months.
That would be followed by other operators who were ‘starting to queue up’.
“We are reviewing the make-up of offers within the scheme to reflect the demand.”
He hoped the full Retail Quarter would be completed and open by 2022-23.
Sheffield Council wants John Lewis to be the anchor tenant. The retailer has not signed up yet but says it is ‘committed’ to working with the authority.
The second phase will involve the demolition of buildings between Barker’s Pool and the new HSBC and the construction of new units – including a multi-storey car park and a department store.
Mr Harris added: “I’m really, genuinely excited about what we can deliver in Sheffield.
“I think it actually will be the envy of other cities in the UK and Europe.
“It’s something that will be fit for a long time to come and it will be open to everyone.”
Queensberry was involved in big town and city centre redevelopments in Belfast, Bath and Newport.
The company is also working for the council in Barnsley, which is undergoing a £100m revamp.