The gateway to Croydon could soon swing open as construction finally begins on a long-awaited landmark development at the heart of the town.

Work on Ruskin Square, a £500m project including hundreds of flats, offices, shops and restaurants on wasteland by East Croydon station, is set to begin this month.

The nine-acre site, dubbed the “East Croydon gateway”, has laid largely empty for 15 years and completely derelict since the closure of the Warehouse Theatre in 2012.

Developers Stanhope and Schroders secured planning permission last year for the first phase of the development, widely seen as a key part of the town's regeneration, after fending off rival proposals to build an arena on the site.

It has now appointed construction contractors Midgard to build the first phase of development, 161 apartments across two tower blocks, one 22-storey and the other nine-storey.

An application to begin construction, including a construction logisitics plan, was submitted to Croydon Council on June 19, with a proposed start date in the coming weeks.

Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes and regeneration, welcomed the news.

She said: “It is a really, really important site for the regeneration of Croydon.

“It is the Croydon gateway, it is the site where you enter East Croydon, so it will send a real message to people that we are open for business, we are an up-and-coming town and so there are lots of opportunities going on here, particularly for jobs and apprenticeships for people who live in the borough.”

Matthew Sims, chief executive of Croydon Bid, said: “It has been a long time coming.

“It is great to finally have movement on the site, to see developments such as this one coming alive in Croydon and we look forward to the town continuing its growth.

“The site has laid dormant for a number of years and this is another example of Croydon moving forward.”

The completed development will include five buildings with up to 625 homes, 22,000sq m of offices, retail units and a car park.

But plans to replace the Warehouse Theatre, demolished in October, with a new theatre have been dropped, with the developers to pay the council a £4m infrastructure levy to invest in culture elsewhere.

Ian Lindsley, spokesman for Stanhope and Schroders, said culture could feature in the completed development.

He said: “We will probably get the residential and the office space going first and then it will depend on demand and activity locally how the whole masterplan goes forward.

“We are very pleased that we are finally cracking on with it.”

Council planning officers are considering a pre-application proposal for an eight-to-10-storey office block, as part of the the second phase of the development.