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Two in shopping expedition

CONTRACTS ABERDEEN

A £60 MILLION plan to build a longawaited shopping centre in Aberdeen looks finally set to get off the ground with two firms expecting to hear soon which has won the deal.

Miller and Sir Robert McAlpine are in a head-to-head battle to build the Union Square development in the Granite City. Sources confirmed the pair would find out shortly which has nabbed the prize.

A number of contractors had shied away from the deal because they lacked the local resources required for such a big project. But one source said Sir Robert McAlpine would subcontract work to local firms such as Mansell, despite the fact it is owned by rival Balfour Beatty.

The Union Square development will be adjacent to Aberdeen railway station and will be close to the existing retail development on Union Street. It will comprise 51,000 sq m of retail and leisure space, with car parking, a bus terminal and links to the station.

The first work is expected to be the bus station and a 10-screen multiplex cinema. The retail development will be built later. It will be a covered shopping mall and retail warehouses with fashion retailers Next and Spanish company Zara already signed up.

The site has been in the pipeline since the late 1990s but planning and design issue have held up construction.

The area had been owned by Railtrack, which sold it off to a joint venture of Hammerson and Stannifer. The firm then acquired Hammerson's share, before Multiplex took over as part of its acquisition of Stannifer.

Now the project is being developed by a joint venture between Wembley contractor Multiplex ? which is also building the massive White City retail development in west London ? and the Indian-born billionaire Reuben brothers.

When finished the development will be worth around £120 million.

The work is scheduled for completion in October 2008.

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