A £100million masterplan to make South Shields an exciting destination every day of the year was unveiled to an audience of business representatives today.
The ambitious plan - titled "South Shields 365" - sets out a bold vision for a radical town centre redevelopment including a new cinema, library and retail and leisure facilities.
South Tyneside Council has drawn up the plan in a determined bid to make South Shields the North East's premier coastal resort.
It was launched at One Trinity Green by Council Leader, Iain Malcolm and Chief Executive, Martin Swales in front of 100 delegates from South Tyneside businesses.
Councillor Malcolm said: "South Shields has tremendous potential and this masterplan is about making sure that it is realised. We are ambitious for South Shields and we have to play to its strengths.
"We have a beautiful coastline, a magnificent riverside and a unique and very welcoming community and these are powerful assets that we can build on to secure a bright future for our town centre.
"Like high streets across the country, South Shields town centre is facing major challenges as a result of the rise of online shopping, out of town retail parks and the tough economic climate.
"These threats have reduced town centre footfall and the shocking fact is that for every £100 of disposable income in their pockets, our residents spend only £3.70 in South Shields town centre.
"It has become very clear that the town centre needs to change if it is to prosper. We cannot turn the clock back.
"Our vision for South Shields is to make it a place of year round cultural, leisure and retail activity for residents, businesses and visitors. We recognise the need to offer an experience that people cannot get on the Internet or at out of town retail parks.
"A new cinema for example would benefit retailers by attracting visitors at all times of day and on every day of the week, playing a key part in growing the South Shields offer and complementing activities on our sea front and riverside.
"By expanding our retail and leisure offer we can not only retain a greater proportion of our residents' spending power in the Borough but also attract more visitors from other parts of the region."
The South Shields 365 masterplan proposes a comprehensive redevelopment of Fowler Street West, creating a new retail quarter for the town.
There are also plans to attract a quality hotel with conferencing facilities and to create opportunities for new housing.
The Council is already in discussions with Nexus about improvements to the Metro system in South Shields and is planning improved vehicle access to the town centre.
In the Market Place, the demolition of the eyesore Wouldhave House building will get under way in February.
The masterplan proposes two new buildings in its place, one of which would provide an arts and cultural hub with a new central library and community hub at its heart.
As well as lasting improvements within the town centre, the masterplan sets out to improve links between the town centre, riverside and sea front.
These areas are benefiting from Council-led investments such as the £2.3million Harton Quays Park on the riverside and £16million pool and leisure complex on the sea front.
The Council's Chief Executive, Martin Swales, said: "We have developed a concept of a peninsula for South Shields and it is based on connecting the sea front, town centre and riverside.
"These are three distinct areas but it is crucial that we knit them together in a way that ensures a seamless transition from one to another while still retaining their individual character and function.
"A lot of visitors come to South Shields for its fantastic sea front and the ongoing £2.4million scheme to make Ocean Road more pedestrian-friendly will help us to draw more of them into the town centre.
"We also have plans to revamp the Market Place, which is a fantastic piece of heritage that we really need to make more of. People will be able to see it from across the river, with its old town hall and church.
"When you put all of this together, you can see that we are well on the way to developing a truly world-class offer for South Shields. I think that's reflected in the strong interest we have received from prospective private sector development partners keen to make the South Shields 365 masterplan a reality."
The masterplan will complement the Council's regeneration plans for Hebburn town centre.
The construction of a new community hub with a swimming pool, gym, library and customer service centre is set to get under way there later this year.
There are also plans for new homes, as well as leisure and shopping facilities that will pave the way for further development.
Councillor Malcolm said: "South Tyneside Council has led an incredible journey of transformation across the Borough, from the redevelopment of Boldon Business Park in the 1990s to the transformation of Jarrow town centre and Cleadon Park.
"In many respects South Shields town centre is the final piece of the jigsaw. We already have a great deal to be proud of but we must move forward with the creation of new opportunities for residents, businesses and visitors.
"Modern town centres with attractive retail and leisure facilities have a major bearing on quality of life and by providing them we can make South Tyneside an outstanding place to live, invest and bring up families."
For more information visit www.southshields365.co.uk