The grey area on the right is the land that's included in the option. It does not include the old CN buildings. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Moncton Mayor George LeBlanc said the city’s push for a downtown convention centre took a step forward Tuesday with council passing a motion to buy a parcel of land in the Highfield Square area.

The city’s finalized option agreement gives it the option to buy $6 million worth of downtown real estate prior to March 2, 2013. The cost to obtain the option agreement is $25,000.

"I’m extremely pleased that we can finally announce the preferred site and take the next step towards a multi-purpose sports and entertainment centre in our downtown," LeBlanc said in a statement.

"It’s the perfect site for our new centre as it has frontage on Main Street, the location is a significant gateway to our downtown, and is within walking distance of neighbourhoods, many restaurants and other amenities in our downtown."

The land is owned by Warren Gate Investment Inc.

Highfield Square officials announced in January that the shopping centre will be closing in the fall.

After reviewing many sites for a downtown convention centre, the top sites were shortlisted and then land appraisals and environmental assessments were undertaken.

The Highfield Square location was selected as the best option, based on site characteristics, location and transportation; costs of acquiring development land; urban context and physical elements; and economic impact and synergy with the downtown.

"With the selection of a preferred site, the dialogue with Monctonians can continue in order to more fully understand the costs, issues and the opportunities of such a major project," LeBlanc's statement said.

"Ultimately, this project is subject to the approval of council, but this is another important step forward."

A new downtown event centre could cost $100 million to construct, city officials have said. In December, the federal government rejected a request for $25 million in funding.

Moncton politicians have been talking about replacing the aging Moncton Coliseum for several years.

A new centre would help attract bigger entertainment acts during winter months, officials have said. The coliseum's seating capacity is 7,200 and the roof is too low for some major concerts.