Luxury £30m hotel plan teed up for Portrush ahead of The Open in 2019
AMERICAN speculators are about to unveil ambitious proposals for a luxury 120-bedroom hotel in Portrush, a town suffering from a chronic shortage of high-end accommodation.
And they hope to rush the £30 million project through in time for 148th The Open teeing off in the north coast town in little over two years' time.
Real estate investment company ARC, which is based in Austin, Texas, has formed a Northern Ireland subsidiary called Causeway Coast Developments Ltd, which is currently finalising a planning application it hopes to lodge in September.
ARC is headed up by Gavin Boyd (36), a businessman originally from Kilrea, and his Texan wife Minka (47), who has been heavily involved in property development in the US. They have moved back to live in Northern Ireland to personally oversee the building process.
ARC has identified a 10-acre site between the Ballymacrea Road and Dunluce Road overlooking Royal Portrush golf club and looking towards the Giants Causeway and the distant hills of Donegal on the Inishowen Peninsula.
Details of the project - which the developers claim has the potential to create 300 jobs during construction and 250 permanent posts on completion - are unveiled to coincide with Rory McIlroy beginning the defence of his Irish Open championship title in neighbouring Portstewart.
Parent company ARC specialises in income-producing properties in the oil rich state of Texas and claims to have a talent for identifying unique value-add real estate opportunities "overlooked by and inaccessible to others".
But given the tight time scale, and the fact that community consultation on the planning application won't even begin until August, it remains unlikely the scheme (it also includes conference facilities and spa as well as guest suites/lodges) will be ready in time for golf's global elite to arrive in Portrush in July 2019.
Development architect Richard Hunter, a director with Ballymoney firm R Robinson & Sons, said: “This project has unbelievable potential to capture and retain high spending visitors to Royal Portrush and other links courses on the north coast.
"In advance of the planning application being submitted, community consultation will seek local views at a public information session in Portrush early next month where the project’s plans will be displayed, and members of the design team on hand to answer any queries."
He added: “This is a proposal of major tourism significance, and it isn’t difficult to imagine the exceptional benefits it will provide to the industry, the economy in Northern Ireland in general and the north coast in particular.
“We've been greatly heartened by the positive response so far from the various agencies, and obviously we are keen to deal with the planning process as quickly as possible before moving to the next stage.
“Every effort will be made to ensure the hotel is fully operational by the time The Open comes to Royal Portrush.
"A project of this scale normally takes between five and six years to complete, so the challenge the developers face in making it happen in two years will be nothing short of a miracle."
There are five or six other new projects in Portrush, Portstewart, Ballycastle and Derry which will add significantly to the hotel bedrooms complement for The Open, though the event is expected to see visitors commute from up to three hours away, just as they do when the event is at the likes of Gleneagles or Hoylake.