VIDEO: Start of £55m tower build will 'kick-start economy'
WORK is expected to start on a delayed £55million skyscraper next spring creating 500 jobs – and it is predicted it will kick-start the city's economy too.
Developers behind the huge Oceanique project at Derry's Cross are now confident construction will begin sometime between March and June.
Lawrence Butler, chairman of Devington Homes, said he is in serious talks with the world's top hotel chain Accor and has other operators lining up as a "safety net". He also has an agreement with Plymouth University to fill 253 student rooms.
This means, he said, the funding will fall into place allowing him to press ahead with a three-year build creating 500 construction jobs, double the number who worked on Devington's giant Azure block, on the Hoe.
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He said construction will provide a huge confidence boost for Plymouth's economy, possibly kick-starting other major developments.
And, when Oceanique is built, it will see 1,000 people living right in the heart of Plymouth, boosting and attracting retail and leisure businesses and jobs.
"We are expecting to be on site next spring," he said.
"There's a nice warm feeling, things are starting to move along."
Mr Butler said three "massive" constructors had been short-listed."If we can get Oceanique rolling it will bring in other developers that are wary. It will kick-start a few other developers.
"We are on the verge of a renaissance of Plymouth.
"If someone sees massive development going on it sends confidence.
"The first person that starts is probably the bravest, but probably gets the best deal.
"Wouldn't it be brilliant if we finish the building and the recovery is roaring?"
His prediction was backed by Tim Jones, chairman of Devon and Cornwall Business Council, who said: "A major project like this would not only create employment during construction but permanent jobs."
He said other vacant city centre sites could be jump-started as a result and added: "It's a confidence boost and an economic boost and other sites may be dusted down and re-evaluated by financiers and users."
Mr Butler, who has other projects in Plymouth, described Oceanique as a "challenge", but also said it will also be "good fun".
At 365 feet tall the building, which will have a boulevard running through it, will be more than twice the height of the 174ft, 14-storey Civic Centre – making it the tallest tower in Plymouth.
Work was originally due to begin on the 500,000sq ft, 32-storey tower, on the former Foot Anstey/TSW site, in 2009.
The project has flats, including for students, shops, and two hotels: a high-end 170-bed four-star-plus venture, and a 140-bed budget version.
If Accor confirm, the larger hotel would be one of its Novotel brand, with the two-star budget one being an Etap, Mr Butler said.
"We need to have end users in place," he added. "Once we do funding drops into place.
"We need hotels and others uses signed up. We are still talking to Accor and some others."
He described Accor as "very keen" but added: "We are talking to new people, and are negotiating and deliberating over which route to go.
"Accor is the lead, but we have a safety net."
He said he had also signed a "nomination agreement" with Plymouth University.
"They nominate students to come to it," he said.
Mr Butler said that with the hotel chain and university in place he could "spec" the 16,000sq ft of retail space.
And he admitted that the 109 residential units, including 16 "affordable", were more "difficult to fund".
But he stressed: "If we can fund the other items and have them signed off residential becomes relatively easier to secure.
"That's why I'm saying next spring, anywhere between March and June.
"We had a meeting in London last week and it's starting to look quite good."