Rochdale council has started a fresh tender process to find a partner to revitalise the town centre, following the collapse of the original contest due to a legal challenge last year.
In a novel move to reflect the tough times developers are working in, the two losing finalists of the new competition will be handed £50,000 each for their trouble by whichever developer wins.
Cllr Alan Taylor, chairman of Rochdale Town Centre Committee and Leader of the Council, said: "We appreciate that it's a tough economic climate for developers at the moment and the competitive dialogue process needed for a development area of this size does require a large investment for the developers that make it through to the shortlist stage. There was a lot of interest from developers at the open day and we had feedback that assistance from the winning company to share some of those costs would be welcomed."
The brief promises "a vibrant range of shopping, leisure, living, working, and cultural activities" anchored by a department store and food store.
Developers can leave out residential if they wish and replace it with offices if they see this as more viable.
Bids must include options for fully integrating the neighbouring Wheatsheaf Centre into the development area or leaving it out, except for pedestrian links.
Rochdale council values the 10-year development at between £100m and £250m. The project is likely to be delivered in phases.
The 22-acre development site includes the council-owned bus station and municipal offices, which are due to relocate to the eastern part of the town centre.
Other land may be acquired by the council through compulsory purchase order if needed.
The town centre plans are supported by Rochdale Development Agency, the Homes and Communities Agency, the North West Development Agency and Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive.
The original contest was won by Wilson Bowden but a runner-up, Sultan Properties, successfully argued that the final scores achieved by the contenders should have been published by the council. European test cases at the time argued the same and the council was forced to repeat the whole process.
DTZ advises Rochdale council.