Belfast Telegraph building ‘could become a Jurys Hotel'
EXCLUSIVE: THE Belfast Telegraph's famous red-brick headquarters in the city centre is set to become a 200-bedroom Jurys hotel.
It emerged on Friday that Cookstown-based developers McAleer & Rushe have bought the historic six-storey building on Royal Avenue for a sum believed to be in the region of £6 million.
The property firm said it was "looking forward to working up proposals for this exciting building".
And the Irish News understands that among the preferred options is for a major hotel project.
McAleer & Rushe has a long-standing working relationship with the Jurys Inn Group over the course of many projects, and it is thought the most likely change of use for the soon-to-be-vacant Tele base is a budget hotel.
"We can't say right now what we're doing, but this is a very exciting acquisition for the company," the firm's property director Stephen Surplis said.
The Irish News first revealed in June 2012 that the Tele's owner Independent News & Media (INM) had drawn up plans to offload the building for either hotel or student accommodation usage.
At the time INM dismissed our story as "mere speculation" - despite exploratory talks already advancing to relocate the newspaper away from its home of the last 146 years.
The Tele has been published from its Royal Avenue headquarters since 1870, and even when the building was bombed during the Second World War, it still got its paper on to the news-stands.
But in March 2012 production of the paper was transferred to the company's plant in Newry, and at the end of last year it was confirmed that the company's print operation in Belfast was closing.
Property agents Lisney advertised the building for sale, with the two development options both featuring a hotel in the listed part of the complex.
Another of the development options included a 414-bed student housing scheme, while the other had 222,000 sq ft of offices.
The building - which as recently as the late 1990s housed more than 600 staff - currently has around 80 people working for the Belfast Telegraph, Sunday Life and Sunday World.
But they are due to vacate the building by April, and it is understood they are relocating to a site which a senior company insider said was "within walking distance" of its current base.
In 2006 the Tele was on the verge of selling its building for possible use as a hotel, but that deal fell through when the property bubble burst.