MICHAEL Owen could soon be spending his wages at a revamped shopping complex in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, with three firms vying for a £150 million deal to spruce up the Eldon Square development.
The city, home to the England footballer's new team Newcastle United, has joined Cardiff and Bristol as a major centre splashing the cash to revamp crumbling shopping centres.
Capital Shopping Centres has shortlisted Laing O'Rourke, Mowlem and Sir Rober t McAlpine for the work.
The current Eldon Square shopping centre, which was opened in 1976, was one of the f irst examples of mixed-use city centre regeneration. But parts of it are now in need of redevelopment in order to attract the higher rents paid by blue-chip retailers.
CSC has interviewed the three firms and expects to send out tender documents in the next couple of months.
Sir Robert McAlpine is the favourite for the deal as it has already built up a relationship with the client at other Eldon Square projects and at the nearby Metro Centre.
The firm is carrying out £1.5 million-worth of work to build shops at Old Eldon Square, a green flanked on two sides by the shopping centre.
It has also bagged another CSC deal with a £2 million job to carry out work on the Eldon Square bus station.
Sir Robert McAlpine completed an £85 million extension at CSC's Metro Centre in Gateshead at the end of last year.
Work on the main part of the Eldon Square scheme, called the Southern Gateway, is due to start next year and to finish in 2009. It will include a new department store and around 30 large stores, adding to the 150 retail units already in the centre.
Before tender documents can be sent, an agreement is needed between the joint owners of Eldon Square. CSC owns 45 per cent, the City of Newcastle owns 40 per cent and the Shell Pensions Trust owns 15 per cent.