A town centre car park could be transformed into a youth centre.
Basildon councillors want to create Essex's first "youth zone", for eight to 19-year-olds, on land off Ashdon Way.
The programme has already been established in 14 other deprived areas of England.
Labour leader of Basildon Council, Gavin Callaghan, said young people "deserve better than the current offer".
Plans for the site will go to public consultation over the next two months.
Councillors agreed a proposal in principle to acquire the land from Basildon Town Centre Management (BTCM) at a meeting on Wednesday.
The charity OnSide, which is behind the initiative, defines the youth zone as "somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to .. in a safe, positive and accessible environment".
It reported a significant drop in anti-social behaviour in towns where youth zones have been set up.
There are 14 existing programmes across England, including three in Greater London, with more than 38,000 young members.
Labour leader of Basildon Council, Gavin Callaghan, said: "We have responded to public calls for improvements to youth services for young people by agreeing a deal to bring a 21st century youth zone into the heart of Basildon as part of the regeneration.
"It will change the culture of youth services in Basildon. The council is investing in the lifetimes of its young people."
Kathryn Morley, chief executive of OnSide Youth Zones, described the plans as "a really positive move forward", adding that the central location and transport links would be "integral to its success".