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IT is hailed as the most prestigious and important development site in Southampton, linking the city to its waterfront.
But after years of trying, the city council, landowners and developers have repeatedly failed to bring to life any vision to transform it.
Now council chiefs are once again trumpeting an exciting future for the Royal Pier district and this time the plans are bolder than ever.
They want a magnificent landmark development to transform the waterfront into an attraction that could put the city on the map and rival Portsmouth's Spinnaker tower, the Daily Echo can reveal.
And the developer chosen for the job has outlined an ambitious vision to turn the Royal Pier district into a Sydney or Valencia-style harbour with a "landmark iconic structure"
that could bring the "wow"
factor to the city.
Cabinet member for economic development, councillor Royston Smith, said: "We have told them that what we want is something that people can recognise as Southampton.We are not in competition with Spinnaker Tower but a site like this needs to be special. We want something that will put us on the map."
Cllr Smith said: "We don't want to see something that is okay, we want something magnificent, something that is going to put Southampton on the map. I see this an opportunity to do something remarkable.
"I think it is the most important site in Southampton.
Ocean Village and Northern Above Bar are both prime locations but this is going to be our landmark development."
Scottish-based Kilmartin is working on a masterplan to create a worldclass waterfront around Royal Pier and Mayflower Park, worth more than £500m.
It says it could feature two hotels, flagship offices fit for the headquarters of a global firm, niche marine shops, bars, restaurants and the city's proposed Las Vegas-style casino.
Previous plans for at least 1,000 flats at the pier were rejected by dock owner ABP in December but the new scheme could include hundreds of homes away from ferry and port operations.
Kilmartin director Colin Banyard said the firm had been given a "a clean sheet of paper brief" but cited Sydney's Darling Harbour and the transformation of Valencia's harbour for the America's Cup sailing event, as key inspirations.We have done a tour around the world. They are good examples of how you can create an active and vibrant waterfront community; places people want to be during the day and evening - a real centrepiece for Southampton.
"This is the only opportunity to pull Southampton down to the waterfront."
Mr Banyard said there was demand for two hotels, both two and four stars, due to the "meteoric rise" of the cruise industry in Southampton.
And he revealed Kilmartin would be making a "strong representation" to the council to anchor the casino at Royal Pier.
"We have certainly talked to one operator and are aware of several others that would be keen to talk to us," he said.
He said Kilmartin had worked with US gaming giant Ameristar to bring a supercasino to Southampton until the Government decided the city was not the best location.
It was instead awarded a licence for a "large casino" with 140 slot machines which could bring 350 jobs and £10m to the local economy.
Mr Banyard said he shared councillors' ambitions to create a destination attraction.
He said: "Very tall landmark buildings are extremely costly.
"I absolutely agree some kind of landmark iconic structure would assist the development, but we need to consult with people."
Previous proposals for a building to give the city a "wow" factor reached the pinnacle of ambition two years ago with a giant museum dubbed the "Symbol of Southampton".
Dreamt up by top London architect Bryan Avery the massive structure - shaped like the wing of the famous Supermarine Spitfire with a viewing platform - would have rivalled Portsmouth's Spinnaker Tower. But funding never came forward.
Whatever Kilmartin comes up with, many residents will be keen for remains of the derelict pier, which was destroyed by fire in 1992, to be demolished. And the developer confirmed it will look at options to remove the eyesore with a possible smaller replacement structure.
Kilmartin will also consider the reclamation of land from the seabed between the pier and Town Quay and along Mayflower Park as well as the relocation of the Red Funnel ferry terminal.
Mr Banyard said the area of the park would become bigger to provide a permanent site for the boat show and other events.
Kilmartin will work on its masterplan over the next year under an 18-month exclusivity agreement. It will involve consultation with the council, other landowners, ABP and the crown estate, as well as Business Southampton, the Southampton Heritage Foundation and the general public.