Business

CastleCourt to develop new entertainment zone in former Debenhams unit

The upper floors of the former Debenhams store at Belfast's CastleCourt complex is to redeveloped as an entertainment zone. Picture by Mal McCann.

MOST of the former Debenhams store at Belfast’s CastleCourt is to be turned into a leisure and hospitality attraction aimed at attracting young people and families.

New plans developed by the shopping complex involve converting 80,000 sq ft of the former department store into an entertainment zone that is expected to feature crazy golf, laser quest, escape rooms and virtual reality experiences.

A new restaurant and a bar with a cinema screen is also being developed under the planning proposal, which will significantly reshape the vacant retail unit’s first and second floors.

The two new tenants are expected to be announced within the next few weeks.

Meanwhile the ground floor of the former Debenhams store will remain as a designated retail space on Royal Avenue.

It comes as the Clover Group prepares to open an extensive new bar and restaurant at Bank Square, in an area previously used by CastleCourt as a service yard.

Already home to Mourne Seafood, Kelly’s Cellar and Havana; Folk Town will further entrench Bank Square’s reputation as a bustling hospitality hub in the city centre.

It's understood that the Clover Group, which runs Henrys, White's Tavern and Fountain Lane in the city centre, is developing a 'trad' theme for the new venue.

Speaking yesterday, CastleCourt’s centre manager Leona Barr said the shopping complex, like the city centre, is in a transition period, with more leisure, hospitality and service-based businesses mixing through the traditional retail offer.

“Multi-channel retail, leisure and hospitality, it all goes hand-in-hand,” she said.

“Debenhams was a sad loss, but what’s happening now fits with our ambition for the centre and the area.

“There are 15,000 to 16,000 students coming, there are key developments around CastleCourt and there is residential development going on. We have to work in line with what’s going on around us and be able to offer students something to do beyond just shopping. It’s the same for families.”

The centre manager said growing the residential population of the city centre is also important.

“I think people are realizing that’s what brings life into an area. You need people living there to help it along.”

Meanwhile, Ms Barr said CastleCourt has received a lot of interest in the former Debenhams ground floor retail space.

“There’s a lot of interest and we’re actually in a really good position, but we just haven’t worked out what that is going to look like at the minute.”

She said the new retailer should be in place by the time the new leisure development is completed and ready to launch in 2022.

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