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Belfast building to become George Best-themed hotel

By John Mulgrew

The location of a new George Best-themed hotel for Belfast can now be revealed.

The former Scottish Mutual building in the city will be turned into an 80-bedroom hotel inspired by the Manchester United and Northern Ireland footballing legend.

And it can also be revealed that the developer behind it, Lawrence Kenwright, has also purchased the former War Memorial building at Waring Street, which he is turning into one of four hotels in the city.

Mr Kenwright bought the Scottish Mutual building earlier this year for more than £6m.

He's also turning the Crumlin Road courthouse into a 150-bedroom hotel.

In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph earlier this week, Mr Kenwright said he will invest £80m in four hotels across Belfast.

Plans to turn the War Memorial building into a 37-bedroom hotel, on behalf of Gravity Group - which was due to develop it - are expected to be approved at next week's Belfast planning committee meeting.

Speaking about plans for his George Best hotel in February, Mr Kenwright said it would follow the template of his Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, which is themed on Liverpool Football Club's legendary Scottish manager.

"We are using the knowledge that we have gleaned from the Shankly Hotel. Every room has a story of an individual that knew him," he said.

"It's about unearthing those stories... not so much the main life stories that everyone knows. This is about the stories you don't know about."

George Best played 37 times for Northern Ireland, scoring nine goals. He played for Manchester United for more than 10 years in the 1960s and 1970s.

After a long battle with alcoholism he died in 2005, aged 59.

Liverpudlian Mr Kenwright wants to begin work on his first hotel this summer.

He's planning on hiring 350 people to work across the hotels.

After buying the War Memorial building on Waring Street in Belfast city centre, it's understood he's also eyeing up another property in the area.

He now owns around 15 developments, including hotels in Liverpool, a bar and restaurant, as well as four serviced apartment blocks, and schemes in Cardiff and Preston.

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