How 10 years turned the Titanic Quarter from a wasteland to a wonder
It's fast becoming one of the most exciting, attractive and economically powerful parts of Belfast. But when Titanic Quarter was launched a decade ago, few would have believed it had the potential to transform a neglected and desolate part of the city.
It's now home to the £90m Titanic Belfast centre, visited by more than two million people from 145 countries, and the huge set of the world's most successful television series, Game of Thrones, filmed in a former shipyard paint hall.
More than 18,000 people work, live and study in the area, which is one of Europe's largest waterfront regeneration schemes. International visitors rub shoulders with thousands of students from Belfast Met and office workers based at more than one hundred companies, including Citi, Microsoft and IBM. The area has hundreds of residents who live in the trendy Arc apartments overlooking the marina, and is also home to the Northern Ireland Science Park, the Public Records Office and a Premier Inn hotel.
It's exactly 10 years since the Titanic Quarter project was launched in the old shipyard drawing offices - which are now earmarked for a luxury hotel.
The first phase of the development is now complete, following investment of £358m. A total of 1.5 million sq ft of land has been developed. Plans for phase two, to be completed by 2020, have been revealed, including a further investment of £395m to develop three million sq ft of mixed use space. This will include office space, hundreds of apartments and four hotels. It's hoped that a further 9,000 jobs will be created. It currently generates just over £4m in rates for Belfast City Council, and this is projected to increase to around £15m by 2020, if the project meets its targets.
The entire regeneration of Titanic Quarter is set to be completed by 2034, with the plans stating that it could create some 30,000 permanent jobs once finished. Pat Doherty, chairman of Titanic Quarter, said: "Ten years ago, Titanic Quarter was a very different place. The area, which once thronged to the sound of 35,000 shipyard workers and was the epicentre of Northern Ireland's industry, had largely fallen silent. Today, Titanic Quarter is Northern Ireland's stand-out global investment project, a transformative development acting as a bridgehead for new investors and new industries such as film and TV production.
"It's also a space for major leisure, entertainment and outdoor events, fulfilling its ambition to be a vibrant new, shared urban quarter for Belfast."
The Belfast Telegraph reported last month that the firm behind the Titanic Quarter, Harcourt Developments, is now seeking additional millions in funding to further develop the site.
A spokesman said: "Harcourt Developments is looking for an equity partner to form a 50/50 joint venture to progress its next phase of development ... the opportunity to partner on five projects with a development cost of £235m which are shovel-ready."
The Belfast Telegraph also revealed last month that there are early stage plans for a large scale social housing project in the area.
It's understood Belfast firm Connswater Homes is behind the scheme, but hasn't yet entered into a formal agreement.