New development proposals sought for hotel adjoining Windsor Park

The site off Belfast's Boucher Road which is seeking development proposals

WINDSOR Park might soon host the Germans, Dutch, Spanish or English not just on the pitch - but in its own adjoining hotel.

Belfast City Council revealed that is seeking fresh ideas from developers for a two-acre site adjacent to the 18,000-seater national stadium.

And while insisting it is not seeking to be prescriptive, its ambition is to enhance the existing fledgling "sports village" with complementary uses such as hotel, leisure, food and beverage, or sports-related retail.

The site of the old Olympia leisure centre (it was demolished years ago) had already been granted planning permission for a three-storey hotel and commercial units for bulky goods retail, though this expired last month.

And now commercial property consultants McKibben have been tasked with sourcing new submissions for the two gateway sites of 0.49 hectares (1.22 acres) and 0.45 hectares (1.13 acres), believed to have a combined worth north of £2 million.

Just over a year ago Belfast City Council opened its plush new leisure centre with spa facility on the site, and a 3G sports pitch has been added, while a sports village including redevelopment of Linfield's Midgley Park is due for completion next month.

Michael Hopkins of McKibben told the Irish News: "The boards have just gone up - and the opportunity now exists to complement and further enhance the major sports-led regeneration that has taken place at this location.

"Two commercial sites adjoining the sports village/stadium and fronting on to Boucher Road and accessed from a new boulevard, are being released to the market."

He added: "These sites present an opportunity for hotel or commercial leisure uses that maximise the synergies of the adjoining stadium and sports village development and which benefit from a location two miles from the centre of the city, with its resident population of 339,000 and a wider 670,000 metropolitan population.

"And, yes, it could be that incoming international football teams, either in the next European or World Cup campaign, might want to get their heads down at a hotel just two minutes from the site of the national stadium."

McKibben says it is seeking initial submissions from developers for the site by Friday May 25.

Those briefs must include an outline indication of rental offer for a new 125-year lease, development proposals, scheme details, sketch plans and estimated commencement and completion dates.

"Given that permission was previously granted for the site and that the City Council will be ruling on development plans, we expect that a digger could be in the ground in a year's time and the scheme completed by 2020," Mr Hopkins added.

Belfast's hotels market has enjoyed a stellar growth spurt over the last two years, with at least 1,000 rooms due to open this year (the existing stock of hotels are enjoying 80 per cent occupancy levels and annual revenue growth of close to 10 per cent).

Last year the tourism market in Belfast alone was worth close to £350 million, which was more than a third of the entire Northern Ireland tourism economy.

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