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New £8m Belfast Cathedral Quarter hotel, The Waring, gets green light

Published 17/02/2016

Artist impressions of Belfast's 63-bed Waring hotel to be located in the former War Memorial Building
Artist impressions of Belfast's 63-bed Waring hotel to be located in the former War Memorial Building

Belfast City Council has given the go-ahead for the city’s newest hotel, The Waring, an £8m development in the Cathedral Quarter.

The council approved plans for the 63-bed hotel in the former War Memorial Building in Waring Street.

Business partners Andre Graham and Seamus Sweeney bought the building for £1.2m last year, having sold their previous businesses – Belfast gay venues The Kremlin, Union Street and Shoe Factory – for £3m in 2014.

Mr Sweeney said the hotel will offer 63-beds over five floors and create upwards of 60 full-time jobs when it opens towards the end of 2017.

“We are delighted that Planning has recognised the merit and potential of our scheme at a time when Belfast is on the very cusp of such significant growth,” said Mr Sweeney.

“With the development of the new Ulster University Campus well under way and the anticipated growth from changes to corporation tax in early 2018, plus other major developments such as the expanded Waterfront Hall, The Waring is perfectly placed to take advantage of the growing demand for hotel rooms, evidenced by and the strong price and occupancy growth rates recently published for Belfast and Northern Ireland.

“Our aim is to create a designer hotel which will be as unique as the building itself - one of only two listed buildings from the Fifties.

“However, although that decade will permeate all facets of our marketing and while the temptation is to design a facsimile of a mid-century hotel, we also want to develop a unique timeless design concept which will be something completely new for Belfast. And already we have some of the most exciting international designers investigating the possibilities for us.

“Indeed, the fact that the notoriously laborious planning process took just three months is testimony to the excitement felt by everyone involved in this project – from our award-winning architects McGonigle McGrath and consultant Barry Owens, through to the planners themselves and the Council.”

Mr Graham said four-star The Waring would be aimed at the younger end of the professional demographic.

“We’ll be targeting the regular business and weekend travellers coming to enjoy what's been recently highlighted as one of Europe's 'must visit' destinations,” he said.

“Belfast's reputation as a young, cool, well-educated and vibrant city will be reflected in the laid back and keen to please culture that will be central to the hotel’s operation.”

Historic location

However, The Waring will also make much of its historic location in one of Belfast’s oldest quarters, with the infamous Sugar House Lane – one of the city’s oldest entries – marking one of its boundaries.

Dating from the 1600s, bombed by the Luftwaffe in 1941 and finally blocked off in the Seventies, the entry - between Waring and High Street - could once again be a bustling thoroughfare if it is opened by the developers as part of their hotel scheme, subject to planning.

The entry was made famous by its Dr Franklin’s Public House, where Henry Joy McCracken first formed the United Irishmen as a secret society called The Muddlers and from where he was betrayed by one of its barmaids, the beautiful Bell Martin as local lore has it, who was a government spy.

In a nod to its notorious history, The Waring’s restaurant, bar and café will be called Franklin’s.

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