The development manager tasked with a multi-million pound revamp of The Moor in Sheffield today vowed: “This is the year for transformation.”
Ranald Phillips spoke as construction of a flagship 80,000 square foot Primark store on the shopping street nears completion this May – and is set to open its doors to customers in October.
He said there had already been much progress since last March, with the skeleton structure that will also house four other retailers, seven restaurants and the nine-screen Light Cinemas picture house rising from the ground.
Shoppers might say that no new stores have opened in that time – but chiefs insist work has gone on behind the scenes to secure retailers and that a major announcement about four new ones is due in the next few weeks.
Mr Phillips, development manager for investors on The Moor, said: “There has been an embryonic transformation on The Moor with the construction of phase two, which is the gamechanger as far as we are concerned, and we are still on course for Primark to open in October.
“We’re hoping the shops will all be ready for trading at Christmas this year, and the cinema and restaurants the following year.
“This year and next year are very much The Moor’s years – but that won’t be the end of the story.
“Over the next month we should be able to announce several retailers and within that timeframe we hope to have two other units under offer as well.
“The reason we consider that things are now really moving on is not just about phase two, we are now fielding more queries than we are allocated.”
Asked what he would say to people desperate to see the city centre improve, he added: “This is the year of transformation, in a number of ways. More existing units will be let, phase two construction will be completed and it will be good to see how it connects with other parts of the city centre.”
While the names of the new Moor retailers due to be announced are currently shrouded in secrecy, one is said to be a ‘new concept store’ and all new for Sheffield. The others are described as more mainstream, ‘part fashion, part accessories, part cafe and restaurant’.
There are also still two units left to fill as part of phase one, close to the £18 million Moor Market, which Mr Phillips said were to go ‘under offer’ shortly.
In phase two, two of the restaurants have been confirmed as Gourmet Burger Kitchen and Bella Italia.
Talks are under way with other operators that are national or will offer something ‘different’ for the city centre.
The eating establishments, together with the cinema, are the key to the vision of turning The Moor into a ‘destination’ that is vibrant after 5.30pm in the evening, rather than deserted.
“What we want to do on the restaurants is look at them one at a time, two at a time. We’re not going to rush to let them all to the first national that comes along,” said Mr Phillips.
“We want to make it a really interesting destination.”
Plans for another element of The Moor’s revamp, three contemporary glass trading kiosks, have been approved and work on them is due to start in April.
One will be occupied by a Caffé Nero coffee shop and meetings have also taken place with independent retailers about the others. Mr Phillips said the aim was to achieve a mixture of national and local businesses.
Many events, from snooker to top acts from the Edinburgh Fringe, are also planned for this year as part of the destination vision.
But is it enough to attract shoppers away from Meadowhall and other shopping centres when some believe it has just moved Castlegate across town?
Mr Phillips said: “I would really hope that people will realise that we are transforming The Moor as effectively Sheffield’s high street. We’ve got a wider range of shops that can be physically offered on Fargate.
“For the first time since we’ve been here we sense that Sheffield is poised to really start realising its potential.
“Obviously a lot of it is dependent on the new retail quarter coming forward but there is an increasing amount of confidence relating to the universities and the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
“There is interest now for taking over shops which has been pretty dormant for the last three years and there is just a general feeling that Sheffield is on the brink of grasping a real transformation – a very long overdue one.”
Phase three of The Moor, covering the right hand side of the street opposite Debenhams, is expected to become home to mainstream fashion brands with a digital screen on the site of the former MacDonald’s.
It is intended The Moor will eventually link with any new retail quarter – for which plans have not yet been agreed – via an upgraded Charter Square.
The main phases of work should be completed by the end of 2017.
Events on The Moor this year:
n March – A boxing ring will come to the shopping street for Sports Relief events.
n April 23 – Snooker on The Moor will bring in a full size snooker table, dance routines and a screen showing games taking place.
n May 28 – Sheffield Food Festival returns with tastings, demonstrations and cultural celebrations.
n July 23 – Music festival Tramlines brings a laid-back and relaxing vibe from local artists.
n August 7 – Classic cars will be on show in a day of family fun.
n September – Top acts fresh from the Edinburgh Festival will come to The Moor.
n October – A Halloween celebration for little ones will be held as part of the Out of This World event.
n November – The Christmas lights switch on takes place.