The troubled 'spinnaker tower' (left) in Portsmouth finally looks set to go ahead. If all goes according to plan, the Harrington Design project should start on site next week.
The £17 million millennium scheme has suffered a series of delays since it received planning permission in September 1999.
Originally due to begin construction the following month, it should have been completed by last Easter.
Portsmouth City Council has been increasingly vocal in its criticisms of the consortium charged with leading the project, which was eventually disbanded last year amid much acrimony.
Project architect Gordon Merret said: 'This is seen as the last chance to get it built. If it doesn't happen now it never will.' He admitted that the scheme had 'quite a torrid history'.
A spokesperson for the council said it hoped to sign an agreement with Barclays - owner of the neighbouring Gun Wharf - later this week to establish access to the tower site. Once this has taken place, it will issue a formal contract to builder John Mowlem and construction can go ahead.
Merret said: 'The only obstacle that I can see at this stage is if all involved have agreed everything, but no one sits down to sign contracts.'
The 170m-high spinnaker tower, named after its resemblance to a sail, will provide three decks with views across the city and harbour. A base building will provide space for ticketing and refreshments, with a glass panoramic lift taking visitors to the top. Architect HGP conceived the original design, and Harrington Design is working with Mowlem on detailed design.
The council hopes the tower will open in 2003.
It marks the final stage in a £78 million redevelopment of Portsmouth harbour, billed as the area's 'renaissance'.
Demolition of Britain's 'most hated building', Owen Luder's Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, could take place as soon as February next year.
The demolition forms part of a major scheme for the redevelopment of Portsmouth city centre being drawn up by architect Chapman Taylor. The plans for a mixed-use scheme are due to be submitted for outline planning consent by the end of next month.
Developers hope to begin demolition of the Tricorn Centre early next year, with construction scheduled for 2003. Completion is set for 21 October 2005. But an insider described this schedule as 'optimistic'.