Argyle Business Centre behind plans for 55-room hotel on Shankill Road
PLANS will be submitted in March to convert the historically-important Shankill Road Mission building in Belfast into a 55-room hotel, which will create upwards of 100 full- and part-time jobs for west Belfast.
The Argyle Business Centre is behind the ambitious £8.5 million Mission Hotel, which it believes will be a catalyst for positive change in that part of the city.
Architects Mullarkey Pedersen in Derry and Dublin has produced a 48-page document outlining the vision for the ambitious scheme at the former Presbyterian Church building, which opened in 1897.
In its early days, the Victorian building was capable of seating 2,000 people and comprised a Sunday School, medical facilities, soup kitchen, classrooms and recreational areas.
But church-goer numbers at the Shankill Road Mission Presbyterian dwindled to less than 20 in recent years, and in 2016 the Flax Trust acquired the site and opened discussions with Argyle Business Centre about developing a hotel and hospitality training academy to improve local employment opportunities.
"We are about to embark on a major fund-raising campaign and to seek relevant grant-aid assistance to complete this important scheme, with a proposed opening of 2020 if all goes well," Argyle's chief executive Drennan McBride told the Irish News.
"The Shankill Road Mission building is of immense architectural merit and is important historically to this area of Belfast, telling a tale of its past and now hoping to grow its future.
"We want to make a difference and believe the project can act as the catalyst required in this part of the city, which is in great need of rejuvenation and which can lead to economic and social growth, as well as increasing tourism in the greater north and west Belfast areas."
He added: "The plan is to develop a four-star hotel with a distinct focus on training, with all profits being channelled back into the scheme.
"A number of individuals and companies have expressed an interest in helping us fund the the project, and we have a March 16 deadline for applications, after which we will be immediately submitting our planning application."
The Argyle proposal is the latest in a long line of hotel developments either recently opened, on site or in final planning in the north.
A recent report from the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation says the current stock of 8,030 rooms provided by 138 hotels across the region will swell to 10,010 rooms at 151 premises by 2020 as part of a combined £500 million investment.
New developments in Belfast alone are worth £250m, while £150m is being spent in other parts of the region and another £100m is being ploughed into the expansion and upgrades of existing properties.
Last year saw the opening of the 119-room Titanic Hotel and enhancements to the Bullitt Hotel (31 new rooms) and Ten Square (57 more rooms), while just last week the 31-room House Belfast opened at the former Madisons Hotel site on Botanic Avenue.
In the next six months new venues will include the 304-bedroom Grant Central in the former Windsor House, a 237-bed Maldron Hotel in Blackstaff Square, and a 190-bed AC Marriott Hotel at City Quays.
A 178-bed Hampton by Hilton Hotel at Hope Street will open by the end of this year, as will a 60-bed extension of Holiday Inn Express on University Street.
And site clearance work has just begun for a 17-bedroom boutique travel hotel in Belfast's Bank Square beside the Mourne Seafood Bar and Kelly’s Cellars.
An application for this scheme was originally made two years ago by Cedarr Properties Ltd, with MM Developments being behind the scheme.
But hoardings at the scheme point to the hotel being build by Kerr Property Holdings Ltd, which was only incorporated in February 2017 and whose directors include Neil Adair and Mark Matthews.