Moncton's mayor says 2014 will be a critical year for the proposed downtown centre, with many key decisions in the coming months.
The city will be putting out requests for proposals for a new entertainment and sports complex "very, very shortly," said George LeBlanc.
But the estimated $112-million project still needs to secure federal and provincial funding and the city still has to acquire the former Highfield Square property, he said.
LeBlanc was hoping the city could buy the land, but the deal fell through, so it plans to expropriate instead, he said.
"We now have a large hulk of a building sitting there empty and cold and dark. This is a building that used to be a symbol of the prosperity of the city of Moncton and now, it's completely vacant and abandoned."
"So clearly we have to do something. The City of Moncton has to take the bull by the horns."
LeBlanc expects the land situation will be straightened out within six months and hopes to have a decision on the proposals by the end of the year.
The complex could include an entertainment and sports venue, convention and shopping centres, condominiums, restaurants and outdoor spaces, according to plans unveiled by the city last fall.
The city is seeking $24 million from each of the other two levels of government.
Downtown Moncton Inc. has already committed $2.5 million toward the project.