One thing is certain, Sheffield City Council will always attract criticism for its attitude towards old buildings. Local forums are full of scathing comments about its past performance, often unwarranted, but it has certainly made a few controversial and unpopular decisions over the years.
However, the Heart of the City II scheme looks on course with the makeover of Charter Square and the new £90million HSBC building already delivered.
The scheme is the inspiration of Sheffield City Council, along with its strategic development partner, Queensbury.
Demolition work is underway on Pinstone Street, Charles Street, Cambridge Street and Cross Burgess Street, with new buildings destined to rise behind existing Victorian facades.
The phased project will cost about £469million, funded with taxpayers’ money, and makes use of existing streets, with emphasis on extra office and residential space, and less on retail, reflecting the consumer switch to internet shopping. The few shops created will be used to attract premium retail brands. In addition, there will be restaurants, cafes, a food hall and two high-end hotels.
Heart of the City II essentially replaced the ill-fated Sheffield Retail Quarter, a scheme which would have involved moving the John Lewis department store and the demolition of several historic buildings.
For those not convinced, take a look at the original Heart of the City programme, initiated in 1994 to regenerate the city centre with new and improved public spaces, new public buildings and the redevelopment of the site of the Town Hall extension, known as the ‘egg box.’
It was managed by Urban One, an urban regeneration company set up by the government in February 2000, to facilitate development.
At the time, funding was provided by a £20.5million grant from the Millennium Commission and over £100million from the private sector and other sources.
The result was the transformation of the Peace Gardens, the construction of the Winter Garden, Millennium Gallery and the Mercure Hotel, as well as St. Paul’s Tower, ‘cheesegrater’ car-park and various new office blocks.
The development was completed in 2016, successful in attracting residents and visitors alike, and is arguably one of the most successful regeneration schemes ever seen in Sheffield.