Belfast Telegraph

Maintenance work on former Belfast bank building in pipeline

By John Mulgrew

Damage caused to a landmark listed building in Belfast city centre is to be repaired by its proprietor. Demolition work on North Street earlier this year damaged the former Bank of Ireland, an art deco-style listed structure at the junction of Royal Avenue.

Now the company behind the building, which is linked to Co Tyrone firm McAleer & Rushe, is planning to fix up the structure, including its interior, which is currently in a poor state.

"During demolition works to the adjoining building on North Street there was some minor damage to a strip of render between the adjoining building and the Portland stone of the bank's facade," a design statement said.

"The demolition works revealed that the bank had been built around and on top of the brick gable of an earlier building and this was now exposed by the demolitions.

"Demolition work was suspended until live electric cables could be isolated, but rubble has now been pulled away from the 'listed' gable allowing a more detailed inspection of its condition by structural engineer Ian Black and conservation architect Dawson Stelfox."

A spokesman for McAleer & Rushe said that "some maintenance and repair work is planned, which is the subject of a current planning application".

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society lodged a complaint with Belfast City Council regarding claims the building was damaged in February this year.

The old Bank of Ireland building was designed by architect JV Downes of McDonnell & Dixon in Dublin and construction began in 1928 at the corner site in the centre of the city.

A document supporting the planning application for work to repair the building said that the "Bank of Ireland has not suffered any significant damage as a result of the demolition works to adjoining property".

"The only damage is to a non-original rendered strip between the bank and the former 1980s building," it added. The structure is finished in Portland limestone and includes five storeys, three bays along North Street and four bays on Royal Avenue.

The corner is capped by an art deco-style tower and clock, and also features decorative metal panels between its large number of windows.

It was awarded grade B+ listed status in October 1990. The building closed in 2005 when the bank moved to new premises on Donegall Square South.

The property has subsequently fallen into a bad state of disrepair.

Occupy Belfast protesters moved into the former bank in 2012 and stayed there for a number of weeks.

The building was sold for an undisclosed sum in 2015 by commercial property firm Lisney, along with properties at nearby Kent Street and North Street.

Aside from repairing the damage, there will be cleaning and clearing of the roof area and inside.

The design statement also said that "there has been a significant fire on the top floor and walls are blackened and plaster damaged" on the third floor.

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