It is not only an impressive landmark at one of the entrances to Sheffield city centre, but a growing one.
The Sheffield Digital Campus – opposite the railway station, next to the bus interchange and near the Parkway – emerged and prospered despite the ravages of the recession a decade or so ago.
Two buildings were established, then a third, Acero House completed in the third quarter 2017, well-leased and eventually sold by Scarborough to an international investor. Construction is due to start later next year on a fourth, 50,000sq. ft. state-of-the-art accommodation for creative, digital and new media companies and helping to give Sheffield an edge in an increasingly competitive market – and jobs.
The development is part of the Northern Powerhouse portfolio of Scarborough Group International whose chairman, Kevin McCabe is co-owner of Sheffield United.
“We started at the worst possible time, during a period when development sites were virtually valueless, but the location and the quality of the development is as good as in any provincial city or even London,” he says.
“We successfully leased space when the crisis was in full flow, and we are still successful.”
Which explains why the 50,000 sq ft eight storey Vidrio development is being added to a list started nine years ago by Electric Works (50,000) followed by Ventana House (50,000) and Acero (80,000).
In particular, Scarborough was encouraged by the response to Acero, which broke ground in Sheffield with its big and flexible floorplate.
It was funded in a 50-50 joint venture between Scarborough and Metro Holdings, the first time that Singaporean investors have opted for the city.
Construction of Vidrio is due to start in the third or fourth quarter of this year. Another jointly funded venture, it will be taller than Acero, but have a smaller and more conventional footplate.
Yet the aim is the same – to accommodate companies of all sizes, from start-ups to bigger enterprises, and their changing needs in an architecturally striking building accessible to all key modes of transport.
Scarborough’s ambitions in the area do not stop at the Digital Campus.
A ten-year vision extends to creating an interchange and major complex of upmarket shops, restaurants, bars and offices rising through a series of terraces and escalators from Sheaf Street and Pond Street to Arundel Gate.
‘DC Interchange’ would incorporate a new bus station and transform a rundown area around the bus station and the 1960s concrete car park that towers above it.
“We are developing the vision and investigating its viability,” says Kevin. “At the moment, it is a sketch scheme, but we are looking at potential key users such as international retailers or a government department relocating from London. We need to build up support.”
Early discussions are being held with key stakeholders such as Sheffield City Council, Sheffield Hallam University and South Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive.
With HS2 set to pull into the city centre, the redevelopment of the large and empty plot at Sheaf Square next to the railway station is still on Scarborough’s radar with a view to top quality offices, residential use or retail. “It remains part of our jigsaw.”
Away from the city centre, the company is investing in Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, which is bringing together expertise from academia, industry and health on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium.
Its involvement at present covers the creation of a new Community Stadium with a 3G pitch, affordable office space, meeting facilities and supporters’ facilities, both seated and standing.
Certainly, Kevin sees the potential for expanding the OLP concept situated on a gateway site near the M1 and with trams running nearby.
“There is a lot going for it, but it needs more land for leisure and offices. The 50 acres are pretty much full up. We would like the other stakeholders to make more land available. Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park could be a bit like Thorpe Park (a Scarborough-backed large mixed use development) in Leeds.”
Of course, the mix of sport and business is firmly established at Bramall Lane where Kevin is the owner of Sheffield United Ltd.
Success on the pitch with Sheffield United FC is being matched by growing ambitions for further redevelopment of the ground.
United have planning permission to install a second tier at the South Stand, creating an extra 5,500 seats, taking the capacity to around 39,000. Then there are plans to add up to 4,000 seats on the Kop.
Other proposals include more commercial facilities and apartments at the corners of Shoreham Street with John Street and Cherry Street and even on stilts above a redeveloped Cherry Street car park.
“We want to ensure we have a stadium and facilities that are up there with the best in the country,” says Kevin.
“We want to do it in a way that means you would still generate revenue if football wasn’t being played at the Lane thanks to the hotel, offices, banqueting suites and the bars and restaurants, museum and retail.
“But logic dictates that we won’t increase the capacity and carry out other developments until the Blades have consolidated their position back in the Premier League.”
As to Kevin’s own position, the 70-year-old father and grandfather admits: “I can’t go on being head steward for Sheffield United for too much longer.”
When he does step down, it will be on the basis that he has done everything to protect the legacy of Bramall Lane, which dates back to 1855 and to the Football Club founded in 1889 and the continuation of “the ethos of a community and family organisation, which is a precious part of Sheffield”.
Similarly, he accepts he can leave Scarborough Group International in good hands.
“I have been around a long time and I enjoy managing, overseeing and motivating a family-orientated company.
“But I have a very good team in Sheffield, London, Leeds, Manchester and elsewhere.
“They are ambitious and can take on board the big projects. Over the years, I have built up a range of partners, many in the UK, but since the 1970s also in places such as Hong Kong, China and Singapore. It’s an aspect of the business that will be passed on.”
He will also leave eventually after helping the city where he was born to establish ties with China that are beginning to generate investment on home turf.
One of the first British property developers in China, he implores the council in Sheffield not to neglect its twinning links with Chengdu. “Make sure the association lasts for another 50 years!”
For the time being, Kevin McCabe continues to keep busy with his successful property interests at home and abroad.
Yet he points out: “The best time to move is when you are doing well.”
Some ambitions will remain, though, in addition to seeing the completion of major developments such as the Digital Campus in Sheffield.
“I want to become a veteran squash champion again!”, says Kevin, whose interest in the sports world stretches well-beyond his beloved Blades.