Housebuilder Yuill Homes and a London-based property company are understood to be Tees Valley Regeneration's choice for preferred developers of a £170m mixed use development on the edge of Darlington town centre.
The Hartlepool-based housebuilder teamed up with Commercial Estates Group last year for the 30-hectare scheme and was shortlisted last October with two other housebuilders and another commercial developer.
Tees Valley Regeneration, which is running the selection process with Darlington Borough Council and national regeneration agency English Partnerships, is expected to announce a preferred developer for the scheme in the next couple of weeks.
A TVR spokeswoman said: "We are in the final stages of discussions with various parties to achieve the best possible outcome for the Central Park development. As soon as we are in a position to confirm the developers chosen we will make an announcement."
The scheme would be one of the biggest revamps for the town in a generation, and has excited interest from large-scale national as well as local development companies, attracting 50 developers to a viewing of the site last January.
The Journal understands that housebuilders Taylor Woodrow and Persimmon - the developers behind Newcastle Great Park - and Midlands-based property company St Modwen were the other names on the shortlist drawn up in October last year.
One developer expressed frustration with the lengthy nature of the process which had been hoped to be concluded by late last summer. It is understood conflicting priorities between the three partners may have been behind the delay. Another developer said: "There were quite a number of parties involved in the process - TVR, English Partnerships and Darlington Borough Council - and it has taken time to make sure everyone was properly consulted which is as it should be for a scheme of this scale."
The 10-year development will include 600 homes, a hotel, conference centre, shops, offices, doctors' surgery and multi-storey car park, which once completed will extend the town centre eastwards.
The site will be linked to the town centre by one of two pedestrian bridges to be built.The other will link the development - dubbed Central Park - to Darlington's railway station to take advantage of the site's close proximity to the East Coast Main Line.
The first element of the scheme - the new £35m Darlington College - was completed last year, and it is expected to be followed by the site's residential development - including 600 "eco" homes - and finally the commercial element, including four- and five-storey office buildings.
It is hoped that as many as 2,000 jobs could be generated by the scheme, which will be the anchor to a huge redevelopment of the town centre, including a £100m scheme linking Queen Street Shopping Centre. Together, the two centres will provide 300,000 sq ft of floorspace.
Discovery Properties will start development next year on The Oval, currently a surface car park, part-owned by the council, which links Commercial Street and Kendrew Street, and which it was revealed last month will be anchored by a 95,000 sq ft Debenhams store.
Commercial Estates Group, which would develop the commercial element of Central Park should the joint venture be selected as preferred developer, is a London-based company which develops and invests in commercial property. It owns 1,500 hectares of development across the UK, which once built would be worth around £1bn.