Belfast's Floral Hall could become city's newest hotel
THE Liverpool developer behind the George Best Hotel and transformation of Crumlin Road Courthouse has identified Belfast's Floral Hall as the location for his fourth hotel in the city.
Speaking to the Irish News, Signature Living boss, Lawrence Kenwright said he has lofty ambitions to become Belfast's largest hotelier following investment of £60 million and revealed plans to create new co-working space in the city.
The 52-year-old first spoke of plans to acquire the Belfast City Council-owned Floral Hall in March and transform
the iconic building, housed within the grounds of Belfast Zoo into a "leading entertainment, conference and wedding venue”.
Now Mr Kenwright has confirmed any refurbishment would be part of a new hotel, which could have as many as 70 rooms. The developer is already working on three other Belfast projects - the £15m George Best Hotel, the £15m Waring Hotel at the old War Memorial Building and the £20m Lanyon Hotel at the old Crumlin Road Courthouse.
"The other (hotel) site hopefully will be Floral Hall," he said.
"We haven't really spoken to the council too much since about it, but we will get back to it. We've just had a lot of other stuff to deal with.
"I don't mind if we get it or not as long as someone does. I don't like dereliction, my view is that there is no building in the UK that should be laying derelict. If someone else wants it fantastic, I just don't want to see it get any worse that's my view and I'll save it if no one else wants it."
Mr Kenwright said the first of his projects in Northern Ireland - the George Best Hotel, will open at the end of November on a partial basis, with roughly 40 of the 63-beds operational across three floors, in addition to a bar and restaurant and reception area. A rooftop statue of the legendary footballer is also set to adorn the roof, with the developer confident it will receive the green light from planners.
"We're actually out to designs now to see who's going to do the sculpture. Even though we don't have planning I know we will get it," he said.
The Liverpool developer also hopes to have the 64-bedroom Waring Hotel open before the end of this year and expects planning approval on the ambitious redevelopment of Crumlin Road Courthouse through within the next four weeks, with a view to opening on a partial basis a year after.
"Liverpool has gone from 2,400 beds in 2008 to almost 10,000 beds and we've got 2,000 of them. We've grown with Liverpool and we've become the top hotelier in the city by a long way with the highest levels of attendance.
"We've got a way to go in Belfast, but it's possible" he said
Aside from hotels, Mr Kenwright sees potential in developing co-working space in Belfast, much like the £1m space opened at Arthur House last month.
"I want to do co-working space," he said.
"We have that in Liverpool and it is doing really well so we want to bring that to Belfast. It could be the next one we go to, but I'd still open more hotels."
"I would also love to get involved in some of the derelict castles you have dotted around, " he added.