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Landmark Belfast pubs could be razed for apartment complex

By John Mulgrew

Published 15/06/2016

The landmark Rotterdam Bar
The landmark Rotterdam Bar

Two landmark Belfast pubs could be demolished to make way for a 19-storey apartment complex in the once-thriving Sailortown area of the city.

The new development would sit on the site formerly known as The Olympic and the now empty Rotterdam Bar and Pat's Bar, on Pilot Street and Princes Dock Street.

The planned building would be made up of 112 apartments and would include two restaurants on the first floor, a residents' gym on the second floor and a roof garden and car parking spaces.

While there have been various plans to redevelop the bars over the years, nothing has ever come to fruition.

A number of well-known Belfast faces have come from the Sailortown area, including the late comedian Frank Carson and boxer Rinty Monaghan.

Playwright Martin Lynch's 1981 play Dockers also covered life in the Sailortown area during the 1960s.

The new designs for the development were produced by Holywood-based Michael Burroughs Associates, with the planning application made in the name of business advisors BDO.

The plans show the new building would be styled to reflect the area's maritime history.

Those behind the scheme said the design would reflect the "profile of a mast and sail being created, bearing a reference to the site's Sailortown and port".

Neither of the vacant bars are listed buildings, and both have been left empty for a number of years.

Similar plans were previously submitted, and another scheme was given the green light by the former Department of the Environment in 2011.

A spokesman for Michael Burroughs Associates said the bars "have been vacant for a number of years now and are beginning to fall into disrepair".

In a design statement, the company spokesman added: "Both public houses have been extended and modified to adapt to the changing nature of the area over the years. As such, much of the original 19th century character of the buildings has been removed."

It also pointed out that the "low building height of both Pat's Bar and the Rotterdam Bar means they are dwarfed by the 14-storey James Clow building" - a large development of apartments that sits opposite the proposed site of the new scheme.

"They have become inconsistent and incompatible with the character of the area, and their redevelopment should be encouraged," the firm said.

The Barrow Square area, which sits between the bars at Clarendon Dock, had originally been designed to form an open-air amphitheatre and to encourage the use of the space by the adjoining bars, once famed for their live music.

Those behind the new apartment development said that with the decline and closure of the bars, those plans are "no longer compatible, and the square now sits empty most of the time and disassociated with any existing building or use in the surrounding area".

Sailortown was one of the first areas of Belfast to be inhabited, with people flocking to the docks for work. At one time, 5,000 people lived in the small area, which drew sailors from across the world.

The area suffered badly during the 1941 Belfast Blitz, and was cleared in the 1960s in an urban redevelopment scheme.

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