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Signature Living outlines ambitious £5m plans to restore Belfast's Floral Hall to former glory

A computer generated image of what the redeveloped Floral Hall would look like
Gareth McKeown

THE Liverpool developer behind the redevelopment of Crumlin Road Courthouse and the new George Best Hotel has outlined ambitious plans to acquire and transform Belfast's Floral Hall.

Lawrence Kenwright, who owns Signature Living, said he hopes to develop the iconic building, housed within the grounds of Belfast Zoo and restore it for use as a "leading entertainment, conference and wedding venue” in the city.

Built in the mid-1930s, the Floral Hall was one of Belfast’s foremost entertainment venues for over 35 years – both as a dance hall, and later as a venue for bands such as Pink Floyd and roller discos. Now owned by Belfast City Council, the venue has been closed to the public since the 1970s. It is estimated that an investment of around £5 million would be required to restore it to a useable state.

Speaking to an audience of investors, developers and occupiers at the MIPIM international property investment conference in Cannes, Mr Kenwright spoke of his ambitions to restore the “gem in Belfast’s social and cultural history to its former glory”.

“I immediately fell in love with the Floral Hall and its rich history as ‘The Ballroom of Romance’ in Belfast when I first saw it several months ago,” he said.

“That so many love stories originate there is very special and, understandably, there is clearly a huge amount of affection for the building within the Belfast and wider Northern Ireland community."

"I am publicly stating my desire to acquire the Floral Hall from Belfast City Council and to invest in bringing it back to use as a unique venue for future generations to enjoy in the way that their parents, grandparents and even great-parents did for so many years in its heyday," he added.

Belfast City Council said no discussions have yet taken place with Signature Living about the site, but it is keen to see the local landmark restored to its former glory.

Floral Hall at Belfast Zoo. The dilapidated structure was once the venue for dances, concerts and weddings, but it closed in the early 1970s as the Troubles wrecked the city's nightlife, and has been used for storing animal feed. 

Director of property and project, Gerry Millar said:

“At this stage we have not entered into formal discussions about the Floral Hall with any investor or developer and disposal of this Council-owned asset would be strictly subject to due process first.”

“However, the Council is keen to see Floral Hall restored and is open to receiving proposals from any party interested in exploring this opportunity further.”

Signature Living is behind plans for five hotels in Belfast, including the George Best Hotel at the Scottish Mutual Building, the £25m redevelopment of Crumlin Road Court House to create the 150-bedroom Lanyon Hotel and the Waring Hotel at the old War Memorial Building, all of which are scheduled to open in 2018.

The Irish News revealed in January that construction on the George Best project is behind schedule, with the 63-bedroom hotel now expected to be complete in September this year, three months later than originally planned. It is understood there is a no major financial reason why the development is behind.

Rather, it is the case that builders are taking extra care due to the age and condition of the listed building.

Lawrence Kenwright first came to the attention of Belfast at MIPIM in 2016 and has since committing to investing at least £100m in the city, creating over 400 jobs.

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