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University's 37-storey tower with hotel, conference centre and apartments will be Sheffield's tallest building

How the tower could look
How the tower could look

A soaring 37-storey tower that would be Sheffield’s tallest building is planned in the city centre directly opposite the railway station.

Sheffield Hallam University is seeking partners to put up the landmark high-rise structure on Sheaf Street, at the site of the former Nelson Mandela Building close to the bus interchange.

The Nelson Mandela Building, demolished in 2007

The Nelson Mandela Building, demolished in 2007

The development would feature a conference facility with space for 300 people, a 120-room four or five-star hotel, roof gardens, dining and bar areas, 200 flats and room for food outlets on the ground floor.

The plan supports – but is not a crucial element of – the university’s 15-year campus masterplan, the first phase of which will cost around £220 million. Over the next five years new buildings are planned for the business school and social sciences, as well as a revamp for the students’ union, known as the HUBS and housed in four distinctive stainless steel drums originally created for the ill-fated National Centre for Popular Music.

Hallam has been working with architects BDP and property firm Lambert Smith Hampton on proposals for the tower. Designs were presented last week at the MIPIM real estate conference in Cannes.

Presently, Sheffield’s tallest building is St Paul’s Tower, the 32-storey, 331ft complex of apartments that overlooks Arundel Gate.

The Nelson Mandela Building was originally called the Phoenix Building, and was once home to the university’s students’ union. The place was renamed in 1982 to honour the anti-apartheid campaigner, who was still imprisoned at the time in South Africa. The building closed in 2004, just before the union moved to the HUBS. Demolition followed in 2007 and outline plans for a four-star hotel and offices on the site were approved the same year. The site is now surrounded by hoardings.

The 37-storey tower would be one of the first things passengers emerging from Sheffield station would see on arriving in the city. Sheaf Square, the main gateway outside the railway building, was redeveloped more than a decade ago, bringing the distinctive Cutting Edge sculpture. Close by, construction is to begin this year on the last phase of the Digital Campus scheme – the block, called Vidrio, will bring 50,000 sq ft of Grade A offices. The city council has also offered Channel 4 use of a plot of land in front of the station, if the broadcaster relocates here.

Hallam wants to become the world’s leading applied university – an institution that offers teaching with a practical purpose for specific jobs and careers – as competition to recruit students increases. Its campus masterplan, published last month, follows the completion in 2016 of a £30m facility on Charles Street accommodating most of the university’s teacher training department, and the Institute of Arts at the former Head Post Office in Fitzalan Square. Flats for students are to be built close to the old post office by a private developer, Langland Estates, in two blocks reaching 16 and 10 storeys.

Later this year the £15m Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, run by Hallam, is expected to open at the Olympic Legacy Park on the old Don Valley Stadium site. The university has also lodged an application to build a new home for the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at the park.

A spokesman said: “Sheffield Hallam University is looking for partners and investors to redevelop the former Nelson Mandela Building site that supports, but is not a core part of, the campus masterplan. We have been working with partners BDP and Lambert Smith Hampton to develop a proposal to transform this location, opposite Sheffield railway station. Sheffield Hallam is currently working on a feasibility study and a proposal, which includes a 37-storey building with mixed-use facilities which was presented at the MIPIM real estate exhibition and conference in Cannes.”