The future shape of Sheffield city centre has today been mapped out as the council presses ahead with a £500 million redevelopment scheme.
New shops occupied by 'quality' names, two plush four or five-star hotels, Grade A offices, residential apartments, leisure venues and a high-end food hall, all set around tree-lined streets and public spaces overlooked by rooftop bars and ccafés, are planned in Heart of the City II, to be built on 1.5 million sq ft of land between Pinstone Street, Barker's Pool and The Moor.
Department store John Lewis is staying put in its existing premises, which are likely to undergo a revamp, a new 500-space car park is on the way, while the Grade II* listed Leah's Yard - a historic complex of 'little mesters' workshops on Cambridge Street - is to be fully restored to become a home for creative endeavours and a new generation of makers.
The scheme is the successor to Sevenstone, the proposed shopping project that stalled during the recession and was dropped five years ago when the council parted ways with developer Hammerson and opted to go it alone. Its name has also changed from the Sheffield Retail Quarter, shifting the focus away from a reliance on stores and towards a mix of uses, a move that reflects consumers' increasing preference for buying things online.
The first Heart of the City brought the Winter Garden, Millennium Gallery, Peace Gardens and the offices of St Paul's Place, and the initial phase of its next instalment is well under way - a new base for the HSBC bank, with room for shops and cafés on the ground floor, is taking shape in Charter Square on the site of the old Grosvenor House Hotel.
In the latest plans, the council is again acting as the developer alongside its partner, real estate firm Queensberry. Designs have been drawn up based around nine 'blocks' which will be delivered on a phased basis, speeding up progress. It is hoped work will start by the end of this year, with overall completion expected by 2024. Around 500 construction jobs will be created and, once built, the scheme will support up to 7,000 jobs.
Familiar street patterns will be followed throughout. This avoids the complicated task of demolishing and remodelling entire routes, and means more old buildings can be kept and reused.
"We need to make it uniquely Sheffield," said Stuart Harris, commercial director of Queensberry. "Heart of the City I was quite sizeable - this is a seven hectare site, it's massive. It's incredible, how much we've got in there."
Block A will face the Peace Gardens, incorporating the existing shop fronts along Pinstone Street and replacing the red-framed former Embrace nightclub in Barker's Pool. The old Salvation Army Citadel on the corner will be restored and the block will feature shops, culture and leisure with a hotel above.
"We think that's an opportunity for a real boutique, hip hotel," said Mr Harris. "I would be going for the very best, because I think Sheffield should celebrate itself."
He said 'quality and ambition' were the watchwords for Heart of the City II, and that retailers such as Zara, The White Company and Sweaty Betty had expressed interest.
"We've seen The Moor be very successful, but clearly they're aiming at a certain type of retailer. The ambition here is to elevate that offer a little bit more. We've looked at other major towns and cities in the UK and said 'Who have they got in that category that Sheffield hasn't?' The majority of these guys have all confirmed and said if you can do it, and create that environment, then yes, there's a reason for our business to be there. These guys should be in a city the size of Sheffield, regardless of whether they're in Meadowhall or not. The size of the catchment and the potential spend is big enough to support it."
He said the brands being targeted liked 'older buildings' and would be a good fit on Pinstone Street. "Then we want to bring it back down along Cambridge Street, past John Lewis, and back down again, so you've got a circuit. Within that you begin to intermingle coffee shops, restaurants, and other leisure uses. The lines have become a lot more blurred now, if you look at how any of us want to shop."
The scheme would be 'a connector' with Fargate, Division Street and The Moor. "It's brilliant, because it's right in the middle of everything."
More shops with homes and offices on top are planned in blocks B and C, either side of Charles Street on the corner of Pinstone Street and Burgess Street. Historic Laycock House - flats with attractive balconies, designed by Flockton's architects - will be retained.
Retail and leisure is proposed in block E at the bottom of the old Telephone House in Charter Square, the upper floors of which are now the Vita student flats. The council is working with NCP, which has a car park there, bringing the total number of spaces in the scheme to around 900.
Block H sits beside John Lewis, encompassing Leah's Yard and also restaurants, space for events, an upmarket gym, activities such as bowling and table tennis, and potentially a boutique cinema. Bethel Sunday School, which dates from 1852, will be incorporated and the food hall - a stylish venture inspired by Time Out market in Lisbon, offering a range of fashionable cuisines served by up to 30 operators and emphasising local produce - will also be placed here. The hall's design standard will be comparable to the Winter Garden.
"The aim now is to very quickly bring forward blocks C and B, and the restoration of Leah's Yard, to be followed by A, H and E," said Mr Harris.
Block F - almost exclusively residential - will take the place of a surface car park on Wellington Street, and there will be 50,000 sq ft of offices, homes, parking and another hotel in block G, on the adjacent site where the old fire station used to be. Block D is Grosvenor House, the HSBC building, and I is John Lewis.
A third of the scheme - nearly 500,000 sq ft - is now taken up by offices, and a similar amount by residential accommodation. Mr Harris said big corporate employers were 'knocking on Sheffield's door' and flexible 'hot desking' workplaces were being looked at. Taken together, the hotels will offer 250 rooms.
Buildings will have 'green roofs' with bars, herb gardens, viewing points and even bee hives, bringing sustainability to the fore. The developments will exploit digital technology, helping visitors to get around, shop and access information.
"The public spaces are really important. We're creating a hierarchy of squares or meeting points, but also courtyards within the buildings as well - a whole environment that's really inviting," said Mr Harris.
The council has previously confirmed it is seeking a site within Heart of the City II as the location for a new Central Library.
John Lewis is 'still at the heart of the scheme'. The retailer would have moved out of its Barker's Pool premises, built for Cole Brothers in 1963, and into a brand new department store as part of Sevenstone. "But they're staying where they are. And we're working with them in terms of how they and we can benefit."
A spokeswoman for John Lewis said: "We welcome the scheme to develop the heart of the city centre in order to make Sheffield a more vibrant and successful place. We continue to work with the council to support their plans for the proposed developments surrounding John Lewis and to understand how our shop might be developed in conjunction with these proposals."
The council's cabinet committee will be asked to give the go-ahead this month and planning applications for the next three blocks are to be submitted early this summer.
'We're getting on with it'
The council says it is 'getting on with it' by bringing forward fresh proposals for Heart of the City II - a project it claims will 'future proof' the middle of Sheffield after years of delay.
The scheme's £469 million cost will be paid for out of the authority's capital budget. But Nalin Seneviratne, director of city centre development, said it would generate income.
"We will work through the rest of these blocks and on completion take a view as to whether we sell them, or hold on to them."
The buildings will also raise funds through business rates and council tax. "It's not dead money," said Mr Seneviratne. "The whole thing pays for itself. Previous schemes meant a commitment to the whole, in one go - an 'all the eggs in one basket' approach. We're getting on with it."
Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, said: "We're controlling our own destiny. If you leave it to the market you're having to negotiate. It's future-proofing; you don't have to come back in 15-20 years and demolish the whole thing. It could be reconfigured."