“This is a key gateway into Sheffield from the North,” says Adam Murray, having just cast his eye over a site that will be transformed from an unprepossessing, tyre-strewn wasteland into a bold new landmark next to the busy Shalesmoor roundabout.
“As you’re coming along Penistone Road you’re going to see this 20-storey tower that’s going to be saying ‘This is a modern, 21st century city that’s going places, means business and is investment-driven’.”
The tall block will be the focal point of The Mirador, a £70 million project that promises to help link the city centre with the fashionable, lively district of Kelham Island and Neepsend across the A61.
Offering 479 apartments along with 10 townhouses and 8,000 sq ft of commercial space, Mirador – an appropriate word meaning a turret or tower with extensive views – will be a private rented sector (PRS) venture, where homes are built to let out to tenants.
“It’s probably the biggest one being proposed in the city," says Adam, director of Kelham-based Coda Planning which is acting as consultant. “Rents are starting to nudge up into areas where your bigger boys are coming in.”
Coda – which has drawn up the designs too through its architecture division – is a member of the Sheffield Property Association. The Star is focusing on the mission of the SPA, which aims to be the ‘collective voice of property in Sheffield’, through a series of features looking at major schemes. In each case, members – a diverse group including developers, both city universities, planning experts, solicitors and agents – are contributing in a professional capacity.
The Mirador plot sits between The Nichols Building, a former grocer’s warehouse that has permission for a £6 million mixed-use revival, and the old HSBC offices on Hoyle Street. The latter premises have planning consent to be knocked down in favour of a £70m development of 247 residential apartments and flats for 658 students, keeping the rare cementation furnace on Doncaster Street at its core. Mirador’s site does not incorporate the historic, Grade II-listed Don Cutlery Works, which is opposite the furnace.
Adam says the land, once used for industry, has been empty for ‘a long time’. “Hundreds of thousands of people are travelling past it on a monthly basis. It doesn’t really give any presence to the city centre, that’s the problem. It’s been forgotten about.”
A conservation area is in place which has stopped proposals from coming forward in the past, he thinks. “They should have protected any buildings they thought were of significant heritage value, and listed them. Everything else should have been open to development.”
Coda is working with Scotfield Group, the Leeds firm that brought Ikea to Sheffield, on The Mirador. “They’ve got good pedigree,” says Adam. “They’ve been there and done it, if you like.”
There will be five elements – the tower, with two blocks either side, a central building and the townhouses. Brick in a mix of colours will mostly be used on the exteriors; the tower is in a lighter shade with champagne-coloured cladding at the top to form a ‘beacon’. Routes across the development will allow people to wander through, and there will be a landscaped square in the middle.
“We don’t want it to be a gated community,” Adam states. “Because it’s so huge it becomes a new part of the city that people can investigate and enjoy.”
Likewise, the commercial units will be completely open to the public. Cafés, shops or gyms are envisaged – these activities, and the flats, will all be run by the same operator.
“The best thing about the private rented sector is it’s owned and run by a professional entity,” Adam says. “It’s not just overseas buyers coming in and taking apartments, and then just leaving them. It’s a very positive thing for the city.”
It would, he agrees, be nice if young professionals and couples could purchase their own flats. But the market is hard to police when speculators from abroad begin circling. “They’ll take 10 units and they’ve never even seen the building – they’re not hugely bothered about the serious upkeep of it.”
PRS housing is a relatively new phenomenon in Sheffield. “We’ve seen the huge positive effect student accommodation has had in the city in terms of much more vibrancy,” says Adam. “Now, because of that improved urban picture, you’re in a position where it’s more viable for people to come in with normal residential rather than student developments. We’ve been working on this for over two years to make sure we’re getting the right design and number of units – it all works together to make it viable. You’ve got to get your numbers right. You’ve got to be able to have economies of scale and be able to deliver a big enough scheme to make it work.”
A planning application should be submitted in October. Construction would happen in phases over several years. “We’d love to start with the tower.”
Schemes like The Mirador prove Sheffield is ‘absolutely booming’, Adam believes. “It’s realised it’s a city at last. Hopefully we’ll never see ‘the biggest village in the world’ again.”