Bank of Scotland has committed £300m to its joint venture with Thornfield Properties to allow work to begin on The Rock in Bury in Bury town centre.
The £350m, 1.6m sq ft project will deliver 550,000 sq ft of retail space, anchored by two large department stores for Debenhams, 103,000 sq ft and Marks & Spencer, 75,000 sq ft.
Bruce Anderson, head of investments in the joint ventures division of Bank of Scotland and also a director of Thornfield, said: "We are very excited to be funding this development for our partner Thornfield. It's an important milestone in the regeneration of Bury town centre and a great project to be involved in.
"Thornfield has an outstanding track record of providing high-quality, mixed-use regeneration schemes and Bury is yet another shining example of their ability to deliver complex projects, in partnership with local authorities."
In addition to the anchor department stores, The Rock will contain a number of large double-height units ranging from 10,000 sq ft to 20,000 sq ft, one of which has been pre-let to Next, with another under offer to River Island.
There will be a further 50 standard shop units. Joint letting agents for the retail space are CBRE and Gooch Cunliffe Whale.
Jason Marcus, chairman of Thornfield, said: "We are delighted to be announcing the main start on site for these important regeneration projects. It sends a strong signal to our council partners and to the marketplace in general, that we are well set to deliver major projects in the face of tough market conditions. We are very confident in the quality of our schemes and are prepared to take a long term view to back up that confidence."
Laing O'Rourke has now been appointed by Thornfield as the main building contractor and completion of the commercial element of The Rock is forecast for summer 2010.
Retail analyst CACI predicted the new scheme would catapult Bury up to 65th place in its UK town centre rankings, up more than 100 places from its current position.
The leisure quarter will total 120,000 sq ft, including a 10 screen cinema pre-let to Vue, a 25 lane ten pin bowling facility pre-let to AMF, a 20,000 sq ft bingo unit and eight family restaurants, including one already under offer to Pizza Express. The scheme will include 397 residential units and a 1,250 space multi-storey car park.
Thornfield is building a new healthcare facility for Bury Primary Care Trust. The new 40,000 sq ft medical centre, with a pharmacy and offering 24-hour care, so that it is effectively a mini hospital, is due to open as early as November 2008. A £10m link road connecting the north and south parts of the site has already been completed.