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Former owners of Belfast gay venue Kremlin set to get green light for Cathedral Quarter hotel

By Margaret Canning

Published 11/02/2016

Kremlin Associates plan a hotel at the War Memorial Building in Waring Street
Kremlin Associates plan a hotel at the War Memorial Building in Waring Street
The former Willis Insurance building on Dublin Road

A new Cathedral Quarter hotel from the former owners of one of Northern Ireland's best-known gay venues has been recommended for planning approval.

The proposed 63-bedroom, four star venue is to be located at the War Memorial Building in Waring Street in Belfast.

It was snapped up by Kremlin Associates, led by Andre Graham and Seamus Sweeney, for around £1m last year.

The building had been bought by Frank Boyd's Killultagh Estates in 2007 for around £7m.

Kremlin Associates sold off the nightclub which made their name in 2014 for around £3m.

The new hotel plans have been recommended for approval at next week's meeting of the Belfast City Council planning committee.

Documents relating to the application describe the building as "an example of the modernist style with a modular, unembellished character".

The hotel will also have conferencing and leisure facilities.

According to a report which will go before the committee: "It is considered the proposed alterations, extension and refurbishment will enhance the appearance of the existing structure, which in turn will make a more positive contribution to the character of the Conservation Area at this location."

The building, at 9 to 13 Waring Street, is a 1950s office block which won a competition to become the official War Memorial Building, providing a home for charities linked to the Armed Forces.

It was formerly the Queen Anne Hotel, which was blown up during the Belfast Blitz in 1941.

It was reopened as the War Memorial Building by the Queen Mother in 1963 and has been used for office accommodation in the last few years.

The report says that no objections were received to the application.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last year, Mr Graham said the new venue would not be aimed specifically at the gay community, but that all would be welcome.

And the planning committee is also set to rule next Tuesday on an application for student housing on Dublin Road, which has drawn around 70 objections.

The accommodation of 156 studio rooms is a joint venture between Lacuna Developments in Holywood and Welsh firm Watkin Jones.

Those opposed to the plans - which would involve converting offices formerly owned by Willis Insurance - include Donegall Pass Community Forum and the area's wider community.

They've said the eight-story development will "overlook and overshadow" houses on Pakenham Street.

But planners have also recommended that the application should be given the green light.

And Co Tyrone developer McAleer and Rushe is also to hear the verdict on its plans for 476 student bedrooms at McClintock Street, which are also recommended for approval.

Along with a proposal for student accommodation at College Avenue, McClintock Street is one of two developments which the firm will sell to Queen's University upon completion, for a total of £70m.

Belfast Telegraph

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