First tenants could move in to new The Beam office building on Sunderland's Vaux site in April
The first tenants could move into Sunderland's Vaux brewery site as early as April.
That was the vision outlined by city council leader Coun Graeme Miller as the media were invited into the first new office block on the site.
The first office building, The Beam, is due to be completed in March and Coun Miller is optimistic the first occupants will be ready to move in shortly afterwards.
"We are in conversation with several private sector businesses at the moment," he said.
"They are very, very keen. I would like to think we will have that all agreed for the end of March, so they can move in in April.
"Last week we had businesses in here who were very excited about the quality of the building and beginning to understand that Sunderland as a city centre is a place they can come and work."
The opening of The Beam was a 'vital' moment for Sunderland, said Coun Miller.
"This is the first building block in the development of the Vaux site as a key element of our new city centre," he said.
"This building is a 21st Century work place, built with the workforce in mind.
"Its green credentials are second to none, it is light, it is airy."
Toby Hyam, of property consultants Creative Space Management, said the development was attracting national interest.
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"There is really positive interest and it is both from the North East but also from outside the region," he said.
"The reaction has been really positive.
"The message about being a city by the sea, the healthy building, the links with the university and the plans for the rest of the development site is getting through and everyone is really positive about it.
"They can see what a fantastic opportunity this is going to be for businesses."
The 60,000 sq ft office building will be the North East’s only new city centre office development to complete this year.
Standing five storeys high, the flagship development will provide high-quality office space in the heart of the city centre, and will also include ground floor space suitable for a bar, café and restaurant that will overlook the River Wear and the Wearmouth Bridge.
The Â£20million site, close to the recently redeveloped Keel Square and St Mary’s Boulevard, is the first of five areas of the city to be developed in a 20-year regeneration scheme managed by Siglion, working in partnership with the city council.
Siglion chief executive John Seager said: "We have got strong interest. We would hope that by the end of this year, it will be fully occupied.
"The building has been presentable for some time, we have been able to take people round and show potential occupiers, but in a lot of circumstances it is difficult to persuade people about what they are looking at and what the finished article is going to be.
"Today is the first time we feel comfortable that we can show people a true image of what the building is going to look like to the occupiers and how well designed it is."
The development was attracting tenants who simply would not otherwise have considered a move to Sunderland, he said: "It has taken a long time to get to this stage - to actually be delivering is key. All of the enquiries we're dealing with at the moment , the potential occupiers, you could almost 100 per cent guarantee they would not be looking at moving into this city if this building was not here.
"Unless you have the product, unless you have it well designed and saying the right thing to potential occupiers, they simply won't come on the basis you could build something - you have to actually develop it.
"Once we have delivered this, we will move on to the next phases and the same economic impact will be seen as more and more occupiers come into the city centre."