Rivington Land, the London-based development specialist headed by former Centros boss David Lewis, and architect ACME have been selected to deliver the long-overdue Chester city centre retail project.
Cheshire West & Chester Council said it expected Rivington to "achieve planning determination for the vital mixed leisure and retail development by autumn next year."
The council went on: "Today's announcement is the first step in a programme that will see the completion of the multiplex-cinema, market hall, car park and food court by late autumn 2017 with the construction of the new retail centre in the following two years.
"Committed to opening a Chester office by the end of the year, Rivington Land will lead the scheme through the planning; secure the necessary retail and leisure operators and attract external investor interest.
"Specialists in retail and mixed use development, the company will manage the development process to ensure that Northgate is delivered on a commercially viable basis.
The Northgate proposal has been around for many years but successive development partners and advisors have failed to deliver so far. ING Real Estate had a development agreement for 10 years on the project, but the council terminated the agreement in 2012 and last year paid several million pounds to acquire land within the development area from ING.
David Lewis left Centros in 2013 after 14 years and set up Rivington with John Laker, a fellow former director of Centros.
Lewis said: "We are utterly delighted to have been chosen as development manager for the Northgate Scheme – which is an outstanding opportunity to create a fantastic commercial retail-environment in the heart of one of England's most attractive and distinctive cities."
Rivington Land will be supported by the architect-led professional team which will harness technical professionals across a range of disciplines such as transport engineering and archaeology.
ACME completed the latest Northgate masterplan in 2013 and worked on Victoria Gate Leeds, Watermark Southampton, Smithfield Birmingham, Sevenstone Sheffield, Bishopsgate Goodsyard London, Robina Town Centre in Queensland and Eastland Melbourne.
Catherine Hennessy, project director of ACME, said: "Chester is a special place – we have greatly enjoyed working on the masterplan concept for Northgate with the city and its people over the last two years, and we think it is a privilege to be a part of the team that will see the Northgate scheme move forward from vision to reality."
Cllr Stuart Parker, executive member for culture and economy, said: "Northgate is testament to the importance we attach to ensuring Chester continues to be a successful retail and leisure destination. It will provide a vibrant, contemporary shopping experience with a successful mix of well established brands and high quality independent stores."
The Northgate masterplan envisages the creation of a new retail and leisure quarter, anchored by a department store, a new market hall, multi-screen cinema, and new multi storey car park for around 1,000 cars. Whilst Chester is a popular day visitor and tourism destination attracting almost 9m visits each year, in recent years it has fallen in the national league table of retail centres. But the city has an affluent population catchment, and national consumer and retail research specialist, CACI, believes that Chester has the potential to become the fourth largest shopping destination in the North West on completion of the Northgate scheme. CWAC approved the Northgate masterplan in September 2013 and drove the scheme forward by completing the purchase of ING's Northgate assets last December.
The council said it owns 100% of the land for the first phase of Northgate and 85% of the overall site; it plans to secure the remaining assets through negotiation and compulsory purchase.
The wider professional team includes AKT II for civil and structural engineering; AECOM on highways and transportation; Donald Insall, heritage; GL Hearn, planning; VOGT, landscape; SEAM, lighting; Oxford Archaeology; David Bonnett Associates, accessibility, and WSP building services.