Blueprint for city skyscraper

Soaring 33 storeys high, this staggering structure could put Sunderland firmly on the map by giving it the North East's highest building.

The Spirit of Sunderland tower is the brainchild of developer Thornfield Properties, which wants to build the tower as part of its 147million plans for the regeneration of the "Holmeside triangle" area of the city centre.

Shops, restaurants, cafes, bars, 150 apartments and other leisure facilities would be housed in the tower and covered square, and 1,800 jobs could be created.

If plans get the go-ahead, Spirit of Sunderland would be the tallest building north of Manchester's Beetham Tower and outstrip anything being built or planned in Edinburgh or Glasgow.

Mike Capocci, chief executive, said: "We want it to become an icon, a symbol of Sunderland, a physical landmark that people can see for miles around.

"We want it to be something the people of Sunderland can be proud of."

Mr Capocci said the building would encourage people to live in the city centre, creating a 24-hour economy.

A cocktail bar with sweeping views over the city and beyond is planned for the 24th floor, which the developer says will become an essential stop for anyone visiting the North East.

Until recently, tall buildings had fallen out of favour, with quick-fix high-rise housing seen as one of the worst architectural hang-overs from the post-war era.

But structures like the Gherkin in London and several high-profile projects around the world have changed attitudes.

Spirit of Sunderland's architect, Page and Park, said Wearside had a number of tall buildings, and high-rise housing in the city was already popular.

The tower blocks at Church Street and Dock Street in Roker, newly refurbished, are seen as some of the best successes in the country. The proposed development is part of regeneration company Sunderland arc's plans for a radical shake-up of the city centre.

David Walker, chief executive of Sunderland arc, said: "Thornfield's plans are still very much in the early stages but to be able to incorporate a significant landmark such as the Spirit of Sunderland would clearly be a huge achievement for the city, signalling a confidence and prosperity that could potentially put it on the international map.

"The reason we appointed Thornfield was because of their proven track record of delivering award-winning, complex city centre regeneration schemes."

Michael Capocci added: "Thornfield have developed a reputation for creating economic success through significant investment in innovative and bold design.

"We want to produce a scheme in the heart of Sunderland which is not only inspirational, but becomes nationally if not internationally recognised as a symbol which is synonymous for excellence and success and which all of Sunderland's citizens can be proud off.

"We are confident we can achieve this if we have the support of the whole of the City working together with a coordinated plan and vision."

The plans are aimed at breathing new life into Holmeside. A series of acquisitions means three quarters of the three hectare site is owned by the arc's partners, English Partnerships and One NorthEast.

Councillor Peter Wood, the Conservative's planning spokesman and representative for the St Michael's ward, which includes Holmeside, said he was pleased plans were afoot for the regeneration of the area.

He said he did not want to "welcome or condemn" the plans until he had more detailed information and designs – and hoped that would be coming soon.

A detailed planning application for the Holmeside development is expected later this year.