Thinking Space Architects is aiming to create 1,000 apartments out of a massive 13-storey brick ex-tobacco warehouse, designed by Victorian architect and engineer Jesse Hartley, and two adjacent buildings.
Specially-built pontoons will allow public access to the water banks while large sail-like light reflectors will illuminate the dock.
Thinking Space insists it will 'preserve and enhance' the warehouse while 'bringing new life to the area using modern design theory, construction techniques and methods'.
Unveiling the plans, the architect said: 'By extrapolating the language of the existing buildings, retaining the massive brick volumes and making interventions that do not diminish the grandeur of the site, the masterplan for the area intends to bring a 21st-century sense of community and place to the monumental industrial architecture of the 19th century.'
Although the scheme involves partial demolition of the warehouse, English Heritage (EH) has given the project its blessing.
'This building is hugely problematic to adapt due to the floor to ceiling height and depth. It is inevitable that there is going to be a high degree of intervention to make it work,' said Peter de Figueiredo, EH north-west region historic building inspector.
'We've been closely involved in discussion with the architects and I am in favour. They have produced a scheme which is workable and a good place to live,' he added.
Providing city planners give the go-ahead, the development should start on site in late 2008 and take seven years to complete.