Construction of The Co-operative Group's new £100m head office in Manchester has started today.
Lead contractor is BAM Construction and hopes to work with more than 4,000 workers from 90 companies on the 325,000 sq ft office building.
This will be the first phase in the redevelopment and regeneration of the group's 20-acre site, located at the city's Northern Gateway and bounded by Miller Street and Corporation Street.
The 16-storey office building on Miller Street is scheduled to be completed by August 2012.
The Co-operative and BAM Construction will also work with Manchester Chamber of Commerce, Greater Manchester Employers Coalition and Jobcentre Plus with the aim of ensuring that 8% of the workforce are apprentices.
Speaking at a special ceremony to mark the start of the building phase, Peter Marks, group chief executive at The Co-operative Group, said: "The Co-operative is proud to say that after nearly 150 years we still believe in Manchester. We have a long past in the city and now we plan to have a long future too.
"Our new head office will not only enable us to continue our commercial contribution to city life but will also play a part in helping to make Manchester a 21st century leader in sustainable development.
"I am confident that in the coming decades this new building, like those we occupy at the moment, will become part of the famous Manchester skyline and that journey towards iconic status starts today."
The new head office will be one of the most sustainable new office buildings in Europe when completed.
As part of the project, Co-operative said further community benefits are also planned, including a partnership with its new neighbours, Lifeshare, the voluntary organisation for the young homeless. As well as fundraising, staff from the Co-operative will have an opportunity to volunteer for Lifeshare, and it will offer professional and technical support to help enhance their work.
The Co-operative said it is committed to working with local schools and colleges and is developing curriculum materials through its partnerships with Co-operative Trust schools and the new North Manchester Academy . The building phase will give practical learning and work experience opportunities to pupils and students. They will offer school visits and will engage with both local further and higher eduction colleges to support departments teaching architecture, construction and urban planning.