Belfast Telegraph

Irish developer close to deal with Washington port for Belfast's Titanic Quarter

By Margaret Canning

Grandees from a port in Washington state are set to visit the Titanic Quarter as they consider modelling a proposed redevelopment on Belfast's waterfront.

Titanic Quarter has provided a calling card for its Donegal-based developers Harcourt which could help it secure a major contract for Port of Bellingham.

The firm, which is headed up by Pat Doherty, is in the running to clinch a deal to redevelop 20 acres of waterfront in Port of Bellingham.

Talks between the two parties began some months ago - and according to the Irish Times, the firm's success in developing the area associated with Titanic in Belfast has helped it reach the final stages of the bidding process for the work.

The port's executive director Rob Fix said Harcourt and Port of Bellingham were close to a deal. "They are by no means completed but they are fairly far along," he said.

Port of Bellingham aims to remodel an old paper mill into a mixed residential, retail and commercial area.

Mr Fix said Harcourt's work on Titanic Quarter was similar to what it had in mind. According to the Port of Bellingham website, the project would create "people-friendly access to the waterfront, while offering housing, small business and new park opportunities".

The project is expected to cost $44m with half of the cost covered by the state, and would take around eight years.

Georgia Pacific, the former operator of the mill, sold it for a token $10 in 2006 in return for Port of Bellingham taking charge of environmental cleanup at the property.

David Gavaghan, chief executive of Titanic Quarter Ltd, was not available for comment last night.

But in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph this month, Mr Gavaghan revealed significant further ambitions for Titanic Quarter, from a casino to an outpost for a global university like Harvard or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

He also revealed that Mr Doherty hoped to launch a luxury boutique hotel on the site.

The Donegal man already operates the Redcastle and Lough Eske hotels in his home county, as well as the Wyndham Grand in London and Macdonald Townhouse in Manchester.

But he does not have any hotel properties in Northern Ireland - and if his plans go ahead, Mr Gavaghan said the hotel would have 'Titanic' in its title, and would be a luxury boutique hotel with 84 rooms.

Meanwhile, the separate Titanic Foundation, which looks after the Titanic Belfast building, this week revealed a plan to create an urban beach at Titanic Quarter.

The plan has been shortlisted for a potential £50,000 prize from the People's Millions, a partnership between the Big Lottery Fund and ITV.

It would involve shifting 400 tonnes of sand to Queen's Island for a beach which would remain in place for five years close to the Titanic Belfast building.

A boardwalk would be placed round the site, along with colourful beach huts.

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