Construction of a multi-million-dollar shopping centre at the Hunter Region's newest town, Huntlee, is now underway.
Work officially began on Tuesday afternoon at the site of the Coles-owned shopping centre, which will include a 3200-square-metre Coles supermarket, an adjacent Liquorland and approximately 10 specialty retailers.
It is expected to create more than 120 retail jobs and should be completed by mid-2020.
Coles state development manager Howard Hathorn said Coles is pleased to be the first major retailer to partner with Huntlee developer LWP at the new town centre.
"The Huntlee Shopping Centre will be an outstanding retail hub offering local residents an enhanced shopping experience and a one-stop-shop in the heart of the Huntlee Town Centre," Mr Hathorn said.
"It will include a full-line, market-style Coles supermarket, complete with an in-store bakery, open-style meat counter with a qualified butcher, large gourmet deli and fresh produce area, along with a range of specialty shops and approximately 240 convenient, shaded car spaces.
"Coles is committed to investing in the local region and we're delighted the Huntlee Shopping Centre will create more than 120 new retail jobs, in addition to jobs generated during the construction period.
"We expect the centre to be completed by mid-2020 and we're looking forward to welcoming customers to the new retail hub at Huntlee."
Mr Hathorn said the start of construction has created a "buzz" around the development.
While the specialty retailers are yet to be confirmed, Mr Hathorn said he was hopeful a pharmacy and food outlets would take up residence in the centre.
The shopping centre will be located near the Huntlee Early Learning Centre, which opened in October.
A tavern has been approved for the town centre, with construction expected to start next year.
Huntlee project director Stephen Thompson said Tuesday was a major milestone in the town's development, marking the transition of Huntlee into a major regional destination.
"Coles was the first organisation to commit to the Huntlee town centre back in early 2014," Mr Thompson said.
"The Coles team understood the vision we were creating for the first new town in the Hunter in more than half a century and, from the start, wanted to be part of forming the bustling retail hub.
"We warmly welcome Coles to Huntlee and look forward to them delivering this fabulous shopping destination.
"It will be of great benefit to both our residents and those living in the surrounding region who have eagerly awaited this day."
To mark the occasion, Cessnock mayor Bob Pynsent joined Mr Hathorn and Mr Thompson at the site on Tuesday afternoon to unveil a plaque at the future entrance to the centre.
Cr Pynsent said it was an exciting day for the local government area, and thanked Huntlee for being a "fantastic corporate citizen".
"It's great to see growth and development that provides more options for residents. Living in the Cessnock local government area continues to become easier and offers a great lifestyle with increased services and facilities," he said.
"It's all a bonus that the facility will also provide more than 120 new retail jobs."
Central Hunter Business Chamber president Brett Wild said the Coles development was a "terrific vote of confidence" in the work of LWP to develop the housing in the area.
"We also feel that the potential for employment with a multinational company opens up many opportunities, especially for young people in the area," Mr Wild said.
"The building of Coles will only encourage other business to establish and grow with ease of access to the Hunter Expressway.
"As major development continues at Huntlee and Coles leading the charge our area can only grow further."
The chamber, formerly Branxton-Greta Business Chamber, recently changed its name to better reflect the area that includes Huntlee.
Huntlee welcomed its first family in November 2015 and is now home to about 1000 residents in 380 dwellings.
The Hunter Region's first new town in 50 years, it is expected to be home to 20,000 residents in 7500 dwellings on its completion in 25 years.