Belfast City Council acquires former bank building for £100m tourism project

The listed art deco former Bank Of Ireland building on Royal Avenue, now owned by Belfast City Council. Picture by Mal McCann.

THE landmark former Bank of Ireland art deco building in Belfast has been acquired by the city council for a new £100 million tourism regeneration project.

Belfast Stories is one of the most significant tourism developments included in the £1 billion Belfast Region City Deal, which was formally signed on Tuesday.

Described as the city’s flagship project of the region deal, it’s set to transform the site of the listed art deco building on Royal Avenue, which has been vacant for 16 years.

Due to open in 2028, Belfast City Council said it plans to restore the building and develop the surrounding area ‘to tell the stories of Belfast, the people and the place, through a new interactive visitor experience’.

A new multi-screen cultural film centre and vibrant public spaces for events are also expected to feature.

It’s the second listed former bank building on Royal Avenue acquired by the council in recent months.

The former Provincial Bank of Ireland, recently vacated by Tesco, was bought by the council in October.

It reopened last week as a new city centre cultural space.

Completed in 1930, the former bank branch down the street has been vacant since Bank of Ireland moved to Donegall Square South in 2005.

It was temporarily occupied by the ‘Take Back the City’ campaign in 2012 before it was sold in 2015.

A subsidiary company of McAleer and Rushe last year entered the planning process proposing a hotel, offices and apartments scheme for the site and the surrounding 43,000 sq ft.

Belfast City Council is currently involved in a joint venture with the developer up the street, at the former Belfast Telegraph building.

Planning permission was granted in February 2019 for a £75m proposal to develop the building into a mixture of offices, hospitality and retail space.

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