Plans For The Redevelopment Of City Centre Have Been Re-Submitted

Matthew Morrison Planning

A £400 million urban regeneration scheme for central Belfast has been submitted to Belfast City Council following extensive public consultations. The development proposal has taken account of views expressed in the consultations and significant revisions have been made, which will help deliver a new forward-thinking vision for this part of Belfast City Centre.

  • 6,000 jobs to be created by development of state-of-the art office, retail and leisure in the north east of the City Centre
  • £356 million of Gross Value Added to NI Economy arising from the development annually
  • 900 construction jobs created per annum during construction
  • Listed buildings brought back into use and additional buildings to be preserved, extra public realm space and community arts space added following significant revisions made to plans after a series of public consultations which began in February this year

The proposed scheme will deliver a vibrant mix of retail, Grade A office space, city centre living plus new tourism amenities, all of which have been designed to attract world class occupiers into the very heart of Belfast City Centre.

The project is the largest ever single redevelopment in Belfast City Centre and will support 6,000 permanent jobs once completed, in addition to 900 construction jobs per annum over the course of the build. It is estimated by Savills economics that the development will add £356m of Gross Value Added to the NI economy annually.

Castlebrooke Investments, the owner and developer, has re-submitted plans reflecting public opinion to include the re-use and refurbishment of several important listed buildings. Castlebrooke has invested over £40m in acquiring the site, all planning work to date and the initiation of construction which has commenced at Lower Garfield Street under the existing planning permission.

The project will include; a new connection between North Street and Donegal Street, as well as routes from Royal Avenue and Rosemary Street, promoting permeability and enhanced connectivity to the vibrant Cathedral Quarter. Additionally, significant residential content, two hotels, the retention of more historic building stock on North Street and three new public realm spaces are included in the proposed scheme. The new plans also include the re-orientation and reduction in height of the tall building and the conscious inclusion of smaller retail units for independent businesses.

A spokesperson from Castlebrooke comments; “We are conscious of the huge responsibility we face to regenerate this neglected part of Belfast and believe we’ve submitted a new plan that will move the city forward.

`We listened carefully during the public consultation to people understandably passionate about the city, considered their feedback and have modified our plans to ensure that we are creating an international standard development that blends and protects the unique cultural and historic legacy of Belfast’s North-Eastern quarter with a 21st century need for buildings and spaces that facilitate the future needs of both residents and businesses.”

“The development is the cornerstone of a vibrant new vision for Belfast and it will go a long way to helping the city achieve the targets set out in the Council’s ambitious Belfast Agenda. Now that the new application is submitted, we intend to give the scheme a new name and initiate an international marketing programme putting Belfast on the list for a large range of new occupiers who are not currently present in the city.”

Jonathan Millar, Managing Director of Colliers International, the commercial agent instructed on the scheme added:

“By comparison to  cities such as; Dublin, Leeds, Manchester, Edinburgh, and Bristol, Belfast’s City Centre has for far too long been underperforming as a major European regional capital city. The scale, quality and content of this comprehensive regeneration scheme allied to its immediate proximity to the new University of Ulster campus will ensure that major international office users, and retailers along with ambitious domestic occupiers will be attracted to this transformational opportunity.

“The whole purpose of the development proposal is to create the type and quality of urban environment required to give Belfast a competitive advantage in attracting world class businesses thereby retaining in Northern Ireland the outstanding graduates being educated at our two Universities.  Castlebrooke has brought its experience and ability to deliver large scale regeneration and investment for Belfast. Work has already started on the scheme at the listed Garfield building and this sends a very positive signal about Castlebrooke`s commitment and clear intention to deliver the scheme

Additionally, under the submitted new planning application, more buildings will be preserved than the current planning permission requires and the facades of 13-15 and 17-23 North Street will be retained and incorporated into the scheme. The Central Catholic Club, Central Halls and Masonic Hall will also be refurbished and throughout the scheme, materials will be used which reflect the area’s historic integrity.

Belfast has an ambition to be recognized as a progressive European city and the new proposals will facilitate just that. Estimates show that the development and its associated regeneration benefits will be the catalyst that could move Belfast from 16th to 11th position in the UK Retail Ranking and generate a gross value-added benefit of £356m per annum to the city, increasing Belfast’s economy by approximately 3.5%, Jonathan Millar added.

Dawson Stelfox MBE, Chairman of Consarc Design Group said, “As Conservation Architects who have restored over 100 buildings in recent years, we believe the proposals represent a major investment in the built heritage of Belfast. All seven of the Listed Buildings in the area are being restored and put back into use which includes the provision of cultural space. Three new streets, and a proposed laneway, increase permeability, improving the pedestrian connections between Cathedral Quarter and the City Centre. As a result of the public consultation, additional unlisted buildings and facades are now being retained and integrated into the new fabric to retain the vibrant streetscape.

We recognise this is a significant and sudden change which can be unsettling, but the phased nature of the current proposals should help with the overall aim of stitching together a fragmented urban fabric for the benefit of the whole city. The positive investment is expressed by the commencement which is now underway and will see the restoration of a vacant listed building on Lower Garfield Street.”

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