Sheffield site's Â£33m future of student flats and retail: '˜A good place to work, sleep and enjoy life'
There are surely more tower cranes on the skyline in Sheffield than has been the case for many years - and two of the tallest are in place at the Â£33 million development Anthony Mitchell is overseeing at the bottom of Ecclesall Road.
"This job is a really fast project," he says, leading a tour of the busy site right next to Waitrose where an accommodation complex for nearly 600 students, and a new row of up to seven retail units, is rapidly taking shape.
The brick-panelled block will reach 14 storeys at its highest point, and will offer enviable views, says the senior project manager for construction firm ISG.
"Even from here you can see the top of Bramall Lane," he says from the fifth floor, the latest storey to be created. Climb further, and residents will 'pretty much' be able to glimpse Sheffield United's pitch, he thinks.Â "There's great views of Sheffield city centre from this location all round, really."
The scheme has its origins in a development called Ecclesall Junction, which would have involved simply converting an old Peugeot garage into shops, cafÃ©s and a gym. These initial proposals were approved by the council in 2016, but then another planning application was brought forward, which called for the complete demolition of the former car dealership, keeping the commercial units but adding the student accommodation.
ISG, a member of the Sheffield Property Association, is leading the construction for operator Valeo. The project - Valeo's first in the UK - is on track to be ready by summer next year, in time for the 2019/20 academic year.
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 ventures. In each case, members '“ a diverse group including developers, both city universities, planning consultants, solicitors and agents '“ are contributing in a professional capacity.
The core of the building - which will be known as LIVStudent Sheffield - is already complete, and the reinforced concrete frame should be complete by early next year. Internal work should begin in November.
Given the quick turnaround required, many elements are being assembled off site. This week the cranes have been lifting 'pods' that form the prefabricated ensuite bathrooms for each bedroom.
"It all gears towards the academic gear 2019 and being open for that," says Anthony. "We're on level five, we're on programme to hit where we should be."
The site is close to a 784-bed complex of student and private flats on the former Gordon Lamb car dealership in Summerfield Street, near Ecclesall Road, which is underway. A third nearby scheme, by Hallminster, will create 144 private apartments, 190 student flats and five ground-floor shops on Ecclesall Road and Pomona Street.
ISG built Sheffield University's SITraN centre, a world-renowned facility for research into motor neurone disease, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. It was also behind the velodrome for the 2012 Olympics in London.
Valeo's high-specification offering includes concierge service, a ninth-floor '˜club lounge' complete with balcony overlooking the city, as well as lounge and study spaces, a cafÃ©, private dining areas, TV room and gym. There will be 586 bed spaces for undergraduates; accommodation is configured around four, five and six-bed clusters, as well as a number of studio apartments. The retail units will have their own parking.
Sheffield practice Axis Architecture drew up the designs. Valeo's aim, by all accounts, is to raise the bar in the city's student sector.Â
"Their brand is all about a good place to work, sleep and enjoy life while you're a student in Sheffield," says Anthony. "This building is in a really prominent location. It's a good location for students on Ecclesall Road, obviously you've got the shops and bars and this is going to add to that."
Alexis Krachai, chief executive of the SPA, said: "Students can go anywhere on earth, so the universities have got to compete. One of the things students are looking at is, 'Have I got world-class accommodation that I want to stay in?'"
Looking out from LIVStudent Sheffield,Â the sites of several major schemes can be picked out - the historic Eye Witness Works, which is being revamped by Manchester's Capital & Centric; New Era Square, the 'Chinatown' development which has launched its first phase; the planned Ibis hotel that will sit next to Velocity Tower at St Mary's Gate, and the Blades' ground, which is to expand.
"This is slap bang in the middle," says Alexis. "It links it all together. For 20-30 years there's been a huge gap, basically from the bottom of The Moor to half a mile up the road. Rather than just being quiet and empty it becomes busy and vibrant."
Student flats free up housing stock for young professionals and families, it is thought.
"Finding starter homes at good prices is difficult," says Alexis. "Everything goes to best and final offers. By taking students out of that, and putting them into a purpose-built environment, it really does help the vibrancy of the city centre."