A £100m plan to transform the seafront at one of Northern Ireland's most popular coastal towns will create around 1,750 jobs, it was announced today.
Up to 1,000 posts will be generated in the construction phase of the development fronting Bangor's marina, with an additional 750 permanent jobs on offer when the commercial and entertainment facilities are finished.
A new 150-bedroom hotel, 60 shops, office units, an outdoor arts venue and a promenade are included in the regeneration plans for the Queen's Parade area.
Launching a public consultation on the ambitious project, Social Development minister Margaret Ritchie said it would help unlock much of the Co Down town's potential.
"The regeneration of Queen's Parade offers a unique opportunity to regenerate Bangor town centre and waterfront," said the SDLP minister.
"Last year, my department put together a development brief for the Queen's Parade site which set out our objectives for this part of Bangor. These were to improve the town centre's retail performance, bring new activities into the town centre and promote town centre living. At the same time, we want to ensure that the unique character of the town is preserved, that we promote high quality design and deliver benefits to and secure the support of the whole community."
"I believe that the Marine Gardens proposal, which my department, the council and the developer have brought forward, is a tremendously exciting new plan which has the potential to move us massively toward meeting those objectives."
A family entertainment centre is also earmarked for the site. The developer Karl Greenfarm also proposes a new pedestrianised street in the town centre with an additional 750 parking spaces.
The minister added: "I am acutely aware that we need to consider the needs of the current residents living in the borough and particularly those in the vicinity of Queen's Parade.
"I am therefore launching a two-week consultation period as I want to get the views of the public in Bangor on the proposed scheme. I would invite everyone with an interest in the town and its future to view the plans at the public exhibition over the next two weeks and submit their views to the department."
Aran Blackbourne, Director of Karl Greenfarm, which is shouldering all of the project costs, said: "Bangor has a unique identity in an outstanding setting and we believe the marina has significant potential for an exciting mix of new uses to reinvigorate the waterfront and restore the town's position as a prime destination with shoppers, families and tourists."
"A retail-led scheme of this nature will provide a much-needed social and economic boost to the town, and will make a substantial contribution to the local economy by generating jobs and attracting investment to the area.
"We are confident that Marine Gardens will attract a strong tenant mix to strengthen and complement the existing town centre in addition to enhancing both the day and evening economies in the town."