Belfast's Cathedral Quarter should rival Temple Bar - hotel developer

Interior of Dublin's Moxy hotel.
Interior of Dublin's Moxy hotel.

THE developer behind a new £20 million Moxy hotel in Belfast has said he wants Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter to rival Dublin’s Temple Bar as a tourism destination.

Co Antrim man Dave Marshall is co-founder of Essex-based investment and development firm Propiteer.

His company last week secured planning permission for a new 164-bedroom hotel in the former Nambarrie Tea building next to the Merchant Hotel, on the corner of Waring Street and Victoria Street.

It will become the first Moxy by Marriott hotel in the north.

Targeted at a younger clientele, Moxy hotels are promoted as ‘playful, affordable and stylish’ city centre venues, imbuing a party atmosphere.

The tender process is already under way, with work due to start by the end of 2022. The build phase is expected to cost at least £20 million and take up to two years.

Originally from Newtownabbey, Dave Marshall set up Propiteer with Alan Sugar’s close aide Colin Sandy in 2015. Mr Sandy, who spent 25 years as Amshold’s finance director, remains an advisor to the high profile billionaire.

Propiteer is already involved in a number of projects in the north west, but the Moxy Hotel is its first in Belfast.

Computer generated impression of the new Moxy hotel on Waring Street, next to the Merchant Hotel.
Computer generated impression of the new Moxy hotel on Waring Street, next to the Merchant Hotel.

The company currently has six hotels at various stages of development around the UK and Ireland in a broader property portfolio that’s worth around £800m.

“The goal is to achieve 30 hotels within the next ten years,” said Mr Marshall.

But for the former BRA student, the Belfast development is of special significance.

“This project is particularly important to me on a personal level, because I’m originally from Belfast myself. And from the point of view of giving back to the city and helping it what it should have always become.

“Belfast never leaves the boy, you know.”

The developer believes the price inflation hitting Dublin’s hotels and hospitality sector has opened the door of opportunity for Belfast.

“Dublin is very, very heavy on price and in today’s world, with rising prices, people will want to travel more inside their own geographic locations.

“This is Belfast’s opportunity to take the lead. There is so much to do in Belfast, and with the price advantage we have today, we really should be doing our best to capitalise on that.

“Yet I don’t think we work together well enough to promote it the way we should.

“It is the Temple Bar of Belfast and we should be encouraging as much vibrancy and collective thinking in that area as possible.”

He said his vision for the new Moxy Hotel involves fusing “the culture and craic of Belfast” with the history.

“It’s the old meets the new where you are bringing in the strength of the largest hotel chain in the world.”

Moxy’s brand is heavily promoted at younger customers, offering check-in at the bar and a lively atmosphere.

Belfast’s new Moxy hotel will also feature a second ‘sky bar’ in the three floor extension that will rise out of the old Nambarrie building.

“A lot of the time, a hotel bar or foyer is a nice relaxing place to be, but it’s not a place you’d choose to be on a Friday or Saturday night,” said the developer.

Computer generated impression of the new Moxy hotel planned for Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.
Computer generated impression of the new Moxy hotel planned for Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.

“Whereas a Moxy is the complete reverse. It’s all about keeping the vibrancy and fun atmosphere in the build the whole time. It’s a party bar.”

Brendan Duddy Jnr and his brother Lawrence, of the Derry-based Duddy Group were previously linked with the Moxy project.

But Mr Marshall said that is no longer the case. Another Belfast businessman has since come on board.

The global economic landscape has also changed dramatically since the hotel venture was originally launched back in 2019.

Rising prices means Propiteer will re-tender for the scheme

“If possible, we would like to be starting the project build before the end of the year,” said Mr Marshall.

“The actual timescale to complete the project, I would expect to be 18 months to two years.”