Plans re-submitted for £400m Belfast regeneration scheme, which could create 6,000 jobs

An overview of the new £400 million urban regeneration scheme in Belfast city centre
Gareth McKeown

A £400 million urban regeneration project in the heart of Belfast has moved a step closer after amended plans were submitted to the council.

Construction has already begun on the largest ever single redevelopment of Belfast city centre in the area known formerly as the Royal Exchange, with almost 6,000 permanent jobs set to be created by the proposed new state of the art office, retail and leisure space.

Initially proposed in 2012 plans have been re-submitted to Belfast City Council following extensive public consultations. During the consultation period a number of concerns were raised in relation to conservation and the developer now insists these have been taken on board and significant revisions have been made.

The landmark Belfast scheme takes in land in the north east of the city centre and includes a new connection between North Street and Donegall Street, as well as routes from Royal Avenue and Rosemary Street, promoting permeability and enhanced connectivity to the vibrant Cathedral Quarter.

The major investment project also features two hotels, the re-integration and refurbishment of seven listed buildings, three new public realm spaces and a 22-storey tower block.

If the plans are approved demolition work will also take place at a number of buildings within the scope of the scheme, including a section of Royal Avenue.

Providing a mix of retail, Grade A office space, residential accommodation, plus new tourism amenities it is the largest single redevelopment to ever take place in the city and in addition to an estimated 5,959 jobs being supported once completed, it is set to create 900 construction jobs each year over the course of the build and add £356 million each year to the Northern Ireland economy.

Developer Castlebrooke Investments believes the new plans accurately reflect public opinion. To date the company has invested over £40 million through acquiring the site along with planning and construction, which has recently commenced on the listed building at Lower Garfield Street under the existing planning permission.

“We are conscious of the huge responsibility we face to regenerate this neglected part of Belfast and believe we’ve submitted a new plan that will move the city forward," a Castlebrooke spokesperson said.

"We listened carefully during the public consultation to people understandably passionate about the city, considered their feedback and have modified our plans to ensure that we are creating an international standard development that blends and protects the unique cultural and historic legacy of Belfast’s north-eastern quarter with a 21st century need for buildings and spaces that facilitate the future needs of both residents and businesses.”

Jonathan Millar, managing director of Colliers International, the commercial agent instructed on the scheme, said the new development can attract "world class businesses".

"The scale, quality and content of this comprehensive regeneration scheme allied to its immediate proximity to the new University of Ulster campus will ensure that major international office users, and retailers along with ambitious domestic occupiers will be attracted to this transformational opportunity."

Dawson Stelfax, chairman of Consarc Design Group said the scheme will benefit the entire city.

"As conservation architects who have restored over 100 buildings in recent years, we believe the proposals represent a major investment in the built heritage of Belfast."

"As a result of the public consultation, additional unlisted buildings and facades are now being retained and integrated into the new fabric to retain the vibrant streetscape. We recognise this is a significant and sudden change which can be unsettling, but the phased nature of the current proposals should help with the overall aim of stitching together a fragmented urban fabric for the benefit of the whole city," he added.


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