Minister for the West Midlands Ian Austin will officially launch building work on a new homes development at Walsall’s Waterfront today to begin its transformation into a new canalside quarter.

The 158 homes will be built by local developer Jessup following an £8.7 million grant from the Homes and Communities Agency’s Kickstart programme.

Mr Austin will join guests at a reception at the New Art Gallery before walking to the site where he will be presented with a time capsule by children from Birchills Primary School. The capsule, containing comments and drawings by some 45 seven and eight-year-old pupils about life in Walsall, is to be buried at the canalside site.

The homes are due to be completed by March 2011 as the first phase of the Waterfront South scheme and includes 23 affordable rented properties for Accord Housing Association. This £15 million phase also includes office and retail space which is expected to create 200 jobs. The second phase will deliver a further 164 homes.

The reception hosted by Clive Jessup, chief executive of Jessup Build Develop, is to thank all the organisations involved in making the development a reality, including the Homes and Communities Agency, Walsall Regeneration Company, Walsall Council, and Advantage West Midlands.

Brian Lowe, chairman of Walsall Regeneration Company, said: “This exciting scheme is the first stage of realising the vision of Waterfront as a vibrant new homes, business and leisure quarter. This high quality accommodation will show what can be achieved by the private and public sector working together for a better Walsall.”

Coun Adrian Andrew, Walsall Council cabinet member for regeneration, said: “All the partners have worked hard to make this project a reality. It will breathe new life into an area alongside the canal which has been derelict for several years. It will also add to the other improvements already under way nearby, including the new Manor Hospital and other major regeneration projects, which are designed to make Walsall a great place to live, work and visit.”