Work on the £100m South Shields 365 regeneration masterplan to transform the town centre is continuing at a pace.
With The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, opening to national acclaim and welcoming over 116,000 visitors in its first three months, momentum is gathering behind the scenes.
Work is now ongoing to bring forward the next phases of the scheme, the transport interchange and new retail and leisure development.
Councillor Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Council, said: "The first phase of South Shields 365, with the construction of The Word and remodelling of the Market Place, was actually relatively straightforward as we were developing on land already controlled by the Council.
"Along with our partners, Muse Developments, we have been conducting complex negotiations to acquire land and relocate businesses, as well as planning the infrastructure works required for future phases."
This year will see a number of significant milestones as complex site assembly works and associated demolitions continue ahead of construction on the Transport Interchange beginning in 2018.
Refurbishment of the Riddicks building will begin; the Post Office will relocate to a new town centre location; the Royal Mail's new sorting facility will open in Laygate; and, subject to a successful funding bid, work will start on site for Nexus' railway skills academy towards the end of the year. The council will also be working with the Department for Work and Pensions to deliver new offices for them within South Shields.
Cllr Malcolm added: "What we are going to see more of is 'consequential regeneration', where the council's investment in the town centre stimulates private sector confidence and investment.
"Initiatives like Colman's Seafood Temple and the forthcoming Nexus rail skills centre are indicative of the increasing optimism around the town. We are now talking to a variety of organisations about how they can take advantage of the regeneration."
A Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) inquiry held in December will determine whether the Council can acquire the land required for the transport interchange and retail and leisure Developments. It is anticipated that a decision will be made by the Secretary of State by April this year. Planning permission was granted last year for the transport interchange.
David Wells, Regional Director at Muse Developments, said: "One of the priorities of the regeneration is to ensure a better visitor experience with enhanced public transport facilities and connectivity between the Foreshore, Town Centre and Riverside areas to enable South Shields to develop as a visitor and tourist destination, further boosting the economy.
"The transport interchange is a vital part of this process and we are currently involved in negotiations with various parties to ensure we commence construction next year.
"The process is very much a partnership between public and private investment and the initial phase of the Word and the Market Place is already attracting interest from new potential business."