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A Magazine for Sheffield

Enough of the naysayers! Sheffield has a bright future

While Sheffield city centre may at times resemble a building site, the new developments should be welcomed and not derided, argues Charlie Heywood-Heath.

An illustration of a pedestrianised area with plants down the centre and buildings on each side

A visual of what Fargate could look like

Over the last couple of years, Sheffield city centre has appeared more like a building site than a hub for economic activity. However, beneath the scaffolding is an exciting future for the city, one that represents new opportunities for people to live, work and visit Sheffield. I want to unpack some of those exciting opportunities and offer a positive perspective often lacking in our city’s narrative.

That is not to say development in our city is perfect, and critical thinking is crucial if we are to avoid becoming complacent. However, I believe we can still look beyond some of the negative noise and be optimistic and proud about the work taking place to improve our city.

My decision to write this was inspired by the recent Festival of the Mind discussion hosted by Professor Vanessa Toulmin and Matt Hayman on the upcoming £15.8m Future High Street funded ‘Event Central.’ With development commencing in 2023, Event Central will repurpose a major 6-storey building on Fargate into a 200-capacity music venue and provide exhibition, co-working and community spaces, as well as extending the award-winning Grey-to-Green scheme.

Whilst Fargate currently blights the city centre, Event Central provides an opportunity to increase visitors to the area and commence the long overdue regeneration of what was once an upmarket high street.

An illustration of a tall building lit from below and the words Event Central on the top left.

How the façade of Event Central will look at night

When complete, this will connect with the major ‘Heart of the City’ scheme that boasts projects including Radisson Blu hotel, Elshaw House, Pounds Park, Cambridge Street Collective and Kangaroo Works. This £470m scheme is at the forefront of changing Sheffield’s cityscape and providing thousands of new jobs, increasing city centre living, and boosting investment in local businesses.

If you walk around this part of the city centre, you can already see the change taking place. Sheffield has historically faced the problem of a disconnected and disorganised city centre with no logical flow between the Moor, Fargate or Castlegate. However, between them, Heart of the City will create a continuum of sites to visit and spend time in. Pounds Park in particular typifies Sheffield’s outdoor city status, providing a space for future generations that benefits the city’s local environment rather than polluting it.

Beyond Heart of the City, Sheffield’s industrial heritage is being brought back to life. Capital & Centric’s ‘Eyewitness Works' will provide high-end, attractive homes in the city centre for young professionals and families to live. Whilst Sheffield was recently voted one of the ugliest cities, schemes like Eyewitness Works will demonstrate the unique and beautiful aesthetic our city can provide.

Previous developments in Sheffield City Centre, including the Moor Market, have left the area surrounding Castlegate in a disparate and run-down state, with no indication that this was once the historic birthplace of Sheffield itself. However, Castlegate has an exciting future, in part due to the £15.7m secured from the Government’s Levelling Up fund. This will de-cultivate the River Sheaf, creating a new public realm where Castle Market once stood and delivering educational projects in the area.

A display saying The Northern Capital of Cool in front of a tall building with a poem on the side

Northern capital of cool

Charlie Heywood-Heath

While exact details are still being designed, the masterplan and funding bid show the potential to re-birth the Castlegate area as a key destination in Sheffield for leisure, tourism and education.

Neighbouring this is the long-awaited £300m West Bar development. As the fourth largest city in England, with world-leading universities, Sheffield is in crying need of investment, which provides opportunities for residents to have highly skilled jobs and businesses. Post-Covid, we may rightfully question whether there is as much demand for office space. However, people have not abandoned the office; instead they want high-quality spaces that overcome the isolation of home working and provide space to collaborate and socialise with people face-to-face.

Alongside schemes like Sheffield Hallam University’s new campus, which will welcome people as they arrive into the City Centre, this shows that Sheffield is a serious place to do business and no longer in the shadows of its northern city counterparts.

A photograph of a city centre area with lots of green plants

Sheffield's Grey to Green initiative

Across these developments, there is often a concern that they only benefit a small minority. Whether it be that Event Central will only attract young people or that residential developments lack community and are solely designed for a transient population, it can be quite easy to take them in isolation. Across these schemes, we need to ensure there is inclusivity across our city. That means delivering genuine social value through our developments by providing truly affordable housing, investing in community infrastructure, and ensuring there are local opportunities for employment, training and financial gain during the construction and operation of these developments.

After all, it is people, not buildings, that transform and improve a city. As a new Sheffield emerges from behind the bars and billboards, it can either choose to raise up its people or chase maximum profit and benefit a small minority.

This list of new developments is by no means exhaustive but it is an indication of where Sheffield city centre is heading. Although Sheffield is affectionately known as the ‘largest village’ in England, the development taking place shows that Sheffield is not a village but a thriving, cosmopolitan city building itself a positive and prosperous future.

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