Work on the long-awaited redevelopment of Sunderland’s Vaux site, which has been vacant since 1999, has started.
The area will be the first of five in Sunderland to be developed as part of a 20-year regeneration scheme managed by Siglion.
The high-profile site will include office, retail, residential and leisure features, with a 60,000 sq ft office building central to the plans.
Siglion’s wider masterplan will also include a hotel, food, leisure, residential and parking elements.
John Seager, Siglion chief executive, said: “It’s a huge step forward for the city and we’re delighted that Siglion has successfully got work started on the Vaux site.
“This will have a transformative effect on the city centre, both during the building phase and afterwards as we add to the infrastructure.
“This really is an iconic site for Sunderland, and will attract people, jobs and money into the city centre for years to come.”
Councillor Watson, added: “This is a momentous day for Sunderland as work begins on this major redevelopment, on a prime site which has stood idle for far too long.
“A huge amount of work has gone into the plans and designs which will now start to see fruition; plans where local people and businesses have been able to give their feedback throughout the scheme to ensure we’re delivering what Sunderland wants and needs.”
The site, located to the north of St. Mary’s Boulevard and bounded by the River Wear to the north, was bought by Tesco in 2001 after the Vaux Brewery closed in 1999.
However, the supermarket giant failed to secure consent for its plans and eventually sold the land to Sunderland City Council in 2011.
Watson will be stripping away the coverings of a huge poster nearby while Siglion will shovel earth to mark the start of the scheme.
Mike Rutherford, senior project manager with contractor Carillion, said: “Today not only signals an important milestone for the iconic Vaux site but for the wider regeneration of Sunderland.
“This is a very exciting project which will help transform Sunderland, creating jobs, workplaces and new communities.”