Business

Developer 'still committed to £500m Tribeca scheme' despite no new planning progress

Scaffolding was erected four years ago to stop the collapse of the old Garfield Building on Belfast's North Street. Picture by Hugh Russell.

A LONDON developer has said it is still committed to a £500 million project to redevelop 12 acres of Belfast city centre, despite lodging no new planning applications in more than two years.

Castlebrooke Investments acquired the site in early 2016 and secured outline planning approval for its mixed office, residential and retail Tribeca scheme in September 2020.

The company was also given planning permission to redevelop a number of listed buildings in the area, including the Assembly Rooms, often described as one of the most important historical buildings left standing in Belfast.

But Castlebrooke has not submitted any fresh planning proposals since August 2019.

The area, which lies between Royal Avenue and the Cathedral Quarter, has featured in a succession of major regeneration proposals over the past two decades.

But little meaningful progress has left many of the vacant buildings falling into dereliction.

The project, now known as Tribeca (triangle beside the cathedral), has divided opinion between some in the business community, eager to see the area's economic regeneration, and conservation groups, who fear the loss of the area’s built heritage.

Castlebrooke’s planning proposals appear in the system under the name ‘Project Goat’ or its short form ‘PG Ltd’.

Its last application in the system was resolved on November 23 2021. That related to an amendment to a previously approved high-rise 16 storey apartment scheme on Academy Street, acquired by Castlebrooke two years ago.

There are currently no outstanding proposals in the system.

Asked for a timeline on advancing the scheme, a spokesperson said: “Castlebrooke Investments are committed to the regeneration of Tribeca Belfast.

“To deliver this £500m urban regeneration scheme, collaboration with Belfast City Council, Department for Communities and other key stakeholders is essential.

“Conversations continue with these stakeholders on the delivery of affordable housing, retail and hospitality. Castlebrooke Investments look forward to announcing further details in the future.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities (DfC) confirmed it has engaged with representatives of Castlebrooke, largely over the proposed reconfiguration of Writers’ Square, which the department owns.

CGI of how Writers' Square could be redeveloped.

But DfC said it has also been discussing the provision of social and affordable housing within the scheme, adding: “Conversations to date are considered commercial in confidence at this time."

Belfast City Council said it is engaging regularly with Castlebrooke through a project reference group, specifically set up around the Tribeca proposals.

“The focus of the meetings is to identify where the council and/or other public sector bodies could assist in order to facilitate development of these lands for the benefit of the city.

“The council continue to meet Castlebrooke through the project reference group to encourage the development to move forward.”

Castlebrooke Investments is also involved in a £150m bid to redevelop Manchester’s 28-storey CIS Tower after acquiring the building for £66m in 2017. The London firm later secured a £60m loan from Trafford Council.

In August 2021, Castlebrooke Investments signed a £8m deal for a 17-year lease on Proud Emankment, a London nightclub that features regular cabaret and burlesque shows.

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