Rochdale council's scrutiny committee last night approved the selection of Wilson Bowden as development partner for its £250m town centre scheme.
Wilson Bowden beat Valad and a joint venture between Ask and Sultan, which had been widely tipped by many to win the project.
Councillors on the scrutiny committee had called Wilson Bowden's appointment into question due to media reports over the financial stability of its owner, Barratt, and the fact it was already delivering the 400-acre Kingsway project in the borough.
Now appointed officially, Wilson Bowden plans a new retail circuit of 350,000 sq ft, anchored by Marks & Spencer and Debenhams, with squares connecting the Exchange Centre and Yorkshire Street.
The project will also feature a new central area with public art centre and a major food store, along with 1,200 new car parking spaces in a multi-storey car park.
The proposals are part of a wider masterplan for the area that will involve building a new transport interchange and new civic offices.
The developer will now draw up detailed plans for the area and further public consultation will take place early in 2009 with construction likely to start in 2010, subject to consent. The need for Compulsory Purchase Orders has not been ruled out and negotiations with landowners are ongoing.
English Partnerships and Rochdale Development Agency advised Rochdale council throughout the developer selection process. Commercial and legal advice were provided by DTZ and Hammonds respectively.
Nick Richardson, managing director of Wilson Bowden Developments, said: "We have a major opportunity to achieve a transformational change for the town, a change that will vastly enhance the retail and leisure offer within the town."
Alan Black, director at DTZ, said: "The process has been one of the most thorough and robust developer selection competitions I have been involved in. The developer with the best track record and best ideas to enable a step change in the future of Rochdale town centre has been chosen."