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Three seek £70m university

CONTRACTS NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE

NORTHUMBRIA University will choose between three rivals for a £70 million development on the site of a former cinema.

The university is planning to move three of its academic schools to a new campus on the east of Newcastle upon Tyne's city centre. Five firms had lined up for the deal, but two withdrew, leaving Laing O'Rourke, Shepherd and Sir Robert McA lpine to bat tle it out.

Last month Shepherd beat Sir Robert McAlpine to a £36 million business quarter development at the Baltic on Gateshead's quayside, less than a mile from the new university campus.

One of the contractors said: 'Shepherd has been pushing very hard in this area recently and will be making this a very tough one to win. There is a budget of around £70 million for the work, but I suspect there could be a wide variety of pricing. At the moment of course quality, not cost, is king.'

The site is currently occupied by a multi-screen cinema, which closed in 2004, allowing the site to be sold to the university. The cinema was opened in 1989. Demolition is due to start soon.

The new 24,000 sq m campus will comprise teaching rooms in blocks of five storeys, student residence and community sports facilities.

The academic buildings will house the university's schools of design, law and business. The schools are currently on a site that is a short walk away on the opposite side of the city's central motorway. The two sites will be joined by a footbridge.

The university has said the development is needed to replace 'tired, unstable and uninspiring' buildings on the current campus. Some of the vacated buildings will be refurbished and others will be demolished for new accommodation blocks Work is due to start in November ready to open in September 2007.