Bolton Council has approved the £15m transformation of 25,000 sq ft of Victorian vaults under Market Place Shopping Centre into a leisure and retail destination.
The scheme is part of the wider redevelopment of the 400,000 sq ft centre, which includes plans for a 30,000 sq ft cinema within part of the current multi-storey car park.
South African retail investor Inception Holdings, working with UK delivery partner Moorgarth, a Leeds-based developer, bought the centre for a reported £24m in November 2013 from administrators of Warner Estates.
The basement refurbishment will deliver new restaurant, bar and shop units. Completion is expected in summer 2015.
Tim Vaughan, chief executive of Moorgarth, said: "We are thrilled with the outcome of the meeting and were delighted by the overwhelming support given by the planning committee. We will now start work on site within the next few weeks."
Vaughan added that the scheme had won the support of "many significant organisations" within Bolton town centre including the University, Colleges, Schools and businesses such as Asons, one of Bolton's biggest employers.
Wren Architecture & Design worked with Moorgarth on the designs and masterplanning for the scheme. Wates Construction is building the scheme.