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Sheffields Heart of the City

Next door to the grand Victorian town hall of the steel city of Sheffield, beside Arundel Gate an unfortunate reminder of days gone by is now a distant memory, only its replacement has not received praise on par with similar regeneration in neighbouring cities.

After years shopping and working beside the old town hall extension, accurately nicknamed the egg box, the local population thought that urban regeneration had finally arrived in Sheffield and that impressive architecture with a well functioning design would consign the mistakes of the past few decades to history.

The plans for this area around the famous Peace Gardens in the centre of Sheffield will see three grade A office buildings constructed as a big part of the centrepiece and to finally provide some high quality modern office space in the centre of Sheffield spread over 6 floors above ground with what is a series of identical blocks with floor plates the shape of irregular pentagons designed by Allies and Morrison who have worked on such prestigious projects as Paternoster Square in the City of London.

They are clad in alternating layers of light stone and reflective glass standing above retail levels and despite the unimaginative shape were considered promising of a new brighter and shinier future for the area and a final undoing of the old modernist planning ideas.

As the shape and style of what developer CTP Limited and St James Security had planned for the St. Pauls Place's 24,000 square metres of Grade A office accommodation slowly becomes reality, and as the hoardings are removed from the new nearby 4-star Macdonald hotel, the very idea of which has been met with derision from the public, local people have been less than impressed with the results.

'Big disappointment' and 'dreadful' are two typical responses from locals, a popular view being that it is nothing more than a slightly cleaner looking version of its predecessor with accusations flying that once the scheme was approved the developers value engineered much of the original quality out of the project to increase the bottom line on the 45 million development.

Such comments about the Heart Of The City Development, which has been funded entirely by private investors and government money, have only been fuelled by the insistence of the council that they have a high quality scheme on their hands, a view that many people feel does not measure up to the reality of what is being delivered on the ground.

Another notable phrase that has emerged from this debate is 'Lets wait and see', and it is advice that some should perhaps heed although with deep reservations. Whilst it may be too late to change the new buildings, the public is yet to experience the scheme at ground level, where two new public spaces are expected to integrate the winter gardens and the peace gardens with attractive paving and modern sculpture and go some way to compensating the public for the loss of the views of the winter gardens from the peace gardens.

The pedestrian permeability and public space may yet save this project in the minds of the population of Sheffield, as great work has been made in improving the area around it from what was previously a hostile environment, but even with striking changes on the ground it is a tall order.

The scheme continues apace despite its detractors with the hotel starting to be fitted internally whilst completion of the first office block expected in late 2005.

Article Related buildings:

Bankside 1

Bankside 1
St Pauls Place Sheffield Heart of the City
St Pauls Place Sheffield Heart of the City