IT’S the £70m vision that would bring 500 much-needed jobs to Southampton.

Developers will next week show off their revised plans to bring restaurants, leisure facilities and a multi-screen luxury cinema to the heart of the city in the much-awaited Watermark WestQuay development, which could be open in a little over three years.

City leaders last night welcomed the step forward as a major boost for Southampton that could kick-start the local economy.

Property investment giant Hammerson expects to lodge a bid in February for planning permission for a striking landmark building housing a mixture of 16 posh and family eateries below an entertainment hub, next to an open plaza linking the new restaurants to the historic medieval walls.

The firm also wants to add a giant 24-storey residential tower overlooking the waterfront as well as a hotel or offices and shops in a second phase of the project, which could see the redundant section of the former Pirelli site completely transformed into a bustling centre within six years.

Bosses at the firm have been working with Southampton City Council on the plans for 18 months and will next week run a two-day exhibition to gauge public reaction.

The scheme – one of seven key projects identified in the council’s £3 billion “masterplan” for the redevelopment of the city centre – has been revised after previous proposals were mothballed when the credit crunch caused the economy to crash.

But earlier this year Hammerson signed a four-year deal with the council committing to overhauling the barren wasteland between WestQuay Shopping Centre and The Quays swimming and diving complex.

The Watermark site has at various points been earmarked as a home for an ice rink and a super-casino, but the developers, buoyed by the early success of the recent £7m expansion of the eating facilities at the retail centre, believe the new plans reflect demand within the city.

The vision includes two rows of “aspirational” restaurants, featuring major national names, and tree-lined promenades leading down from the Waterstones side of the retail complex, overlooking a landscaped plaza separating the development from the city’s old walls.

On the Harbour Parade side of the development, family-orientated food outlets would be linked to the multi-storey car park by a new bridge across the road.

Above them, a floor would be given over to leisure facilities, which could be a bowling alley or “family entertainment centre”, with the 12 cinema screens forming the top layer of the complex, which would be as tall as the shopping centre.

Hammerson development manager Guy Wells promised that Watermark would provide “grand architecture and a statement”

for the city centre, and hopes that construction will begin in spring 2014.

He said: “Watermark WestQuay is an important regeneration scheme that will transform this part of the city and at the same time create fulland part-time employment opportunities for local people.”

Southampton’s Labour finance boss, Cllr Simon Letts, last night said he is delighted that the scheme is moving forward.

He said: “It’s excellent news for the city, creating jobs and getting things moving again.”

  • The full plans will be on show on the lower floor of WestQuay Shopping Centre from 9am to 8pm next Thursday and Friday.