Work is under way to clear landmark buildings from neighbouring city centre sites to make way for multi-million pound projects bringing hundreds of jobs.
Demolition work is well on to knock down The Gates shopping centre in Durham, while on the other side of Milburngate Bridge by the River Wear, work has begun to knock down the former passport office and will begin again in earnest in the New Year.
Planning permission has been granted for The Gates site to turn it into The Riverwalk, a £30million redevelopment which will feature restaurants, including the Handmade Burger Co, a six-screen Odeon cinema, accommodation for 253 students and 23 refurbished shops.
It will open in two stages in 2018 and be complete by that summer.
The £150million redevelopment of Milburngate House, which was built in the 1960s, will also see a new picture house welcomed to the city, with an Everyman Cinema to open as part of the new complex.
It will be joined by a host of restaurants and bars, apartments and office space, which is expected to create more than 1,000 full-time jobs and 650 construction jobs.
The plans for Milburngate are very exciting and definitely better than what is there at the moment.David Glencorse
Clearance of that site is expected to take 12 months, starting from the back of the building, with the demolition team from Thompsons of Prudhoe, which is working alongside lead contractor Carillion, expected to be back on site on Monday, January 9.
Staff working for the passport service have already moved over to a new site near to the Walkergate complex.
The start of the process begun with the help of David Glencorse, 69, who performed the ceremonial start of the external demolition of the former office.
David began working as a clerk at County Hall in the Weights and Measures department in 1965, when Milburngate House was first being constructed, and regularly walked past the development on his way to the post office in Claypath to pay in funds for colleagues’ National Insurance stamps.
He spent 45 years in the Weights and Measures and Trading Standards departments at councils across the North East before retiring.
Planning permission was awarded for the site in November to Carillion along with Arlington Real Estate and Richardsons Capital LLP.
David said: “I saw Milburngate House being built from the foundations up, including the pouring of the concrete, so I was honoured to be asked to help start the next chapter of the site’s future.
“The plans for Milburngate are very exciting and definitely better than what is there at the moment.”
Steve Hunter, project director of Carillion Building, said: “This is a landmark moment for the regeneration of Durham City’s riverside, and we were delighted that David, who was there when the original construction began on the site in the 1960s, could play a part in helping us to start the process of transforming the site for the benefit of the city and future generations of residents, workers and visitors.”