Private investors have expressed interest in bringing forward at least some of Sheffield's £500 million Heart of the City II project - giving hope the council will not have to act as the scheme's sole developer.
Plans to transform 1.5 million sq ft of land between Pinstone Street, Barker's Pool and The Moor with new shops, hotels, offices, apartments, leisure facilities and cafés were announced earlier this week.
The proposals - formerly known as the Sheffield Retail Quarter - are the successor to Sevenstone, the shopping scheme that stalled during the recession and was dropped five years ago. The first Heart of the City brought the Winter Garden, Millennium Gallery, Peace Gardens and the offices of St Paul's Place.
After parting ways with Sevenstone's developer Hammerson, the council opted to go it alone. It is leading the first phase of Heart of the City II - a new base for HSBC at Charter Square - itself, with support from real estate firm Queensberry, and is likely to do the same for the next few blocks on Pinstone Street, the ground floor of the old Telephone House, and at Grade II* listed Leah's Yard, where historic 'little mesters' workshops will be restored.
However, one of the subsequent stages - Trafalgar Works - is almost exclusively residential, and will take the place of a car park on Wellington Street.
"The aim is to get more people to both live and work in the city centre and thus increase vibrancy and the sense of community," says a report to a meeting of the authority's cabinet committee next Wednesday, when councillors will be asked to give the go-ahead.
"Given this site's prime position there has already been a lot of interest from private developers and investors. Given this strong private sector demand, the council does not necessarily need to act as the developer for this block. The council will submit an outline planning application to establish a residential use and then, if appropriate, will place the site on the open market to find a developer."
Money from the Sheffield City Region Investment Fund and Heritage England will also be sought.
Meanwhile, further compulsory purchase orders may be needed to secure land. Discussions have begun about acquiring the surface car park on Carver Street; St Matthew's Church Hall; 30 Cambridge Street - the Stone The Crows shop - and leased office space inside Barker's Pool House, next to John Lewis. The department store is staying put and will be built around.
"If these discussions are not successful officers will, if necessary, be coming back with a full report setting out why we may require these properties in order to deliver a comprehensive development."
The council considered completing only the HSBC block, the report admits - but this idea was disregarded because of the 'many negative outcomes'.
"The status of the city centre would continue to diminish, the council's long term economic aspirations for the city would become less feasible, there would be a lack of confidence for other projects and the reputation of both the city and council would also suffer. The council will also make a loss if the Heart of the City II development is not delivered, as its investment to date in working up the scheme would be lost."