Why should a hotel at the Central Library be welcomed or opposed?
5th January 2017
Richard Wright, executive director, Sheffield Chamber of Commerce "It is worth noting that at this point the City Council has only granted the potential Chinese developers a twelve month exclusive window to examine the feasibility of the option of converting the existing central library into a five star hotel and relocating the Graves Art Gallery to the ground floor.
They freely admit there is much more work to do, including developing a scheme for the new library, which they have promised to do. Naturally many members of the public do have concerns about this but I would defend the decision to engage in a wider public debate of the alternatives. It is the mark of an open democracy and presenting a fait accompli could mean that the decisions had been made in closed discussions. "The danger is that everybody sees this as a one issue debate. It isn't. This is just one project in the continued development of our city, along with the city centre development (New Retail Quarter), the future HS2 station, Kelham Island, a new Conference and Exhibition Centre, the New Era Development with its China Town, the West Bar development, and continued investments by our universities (or to support them). The question we should all ask is "Will the city support a new five star hotel in 5/10 years time?" because if the answer is yes it means the city is doing well and will be a great place to live. We should get on with it and, providing the city does build an alternative "fit for purpose" library, the economic case seems pretty overwhelming. The current building needs a massive amount of money spending on it just to refurbish its structure, the library needs another massive amount of money spending on it to bring it up to world class, and we have some private chinese investors potentially interested in doing the project!! "The risks are that the city doesn't develop as we want, or that even if the city does develop a five star hotel on that site is not viable, or that there isn't enough funding for a standard of library we all want. The benefits are that we build something that adds to the offer of Sheffield and is symbiotic with the other developments in progress. The benefit from being seen as a city that continues to re-invent itself, and invest in itself, is immeasurable. It draws other investors in and should help improve the lives of everybody in the city and region. It must be evaluated properly and the Council and its investors must be given time to do it."