Plans unveiled for exhibition centre at Belfast Titanic Quarter
Belfast's burgeoning Titanic Quarter is set to expand further with its first dedicated exhibition centre.
Plans for a 6,000 square metre Titanic Exhibition Centre are being prepared in the hopes a temporary site at Queen's Road will be ready by the autumn.
And it will soon be up against the Waterfront Hall - which is undergoing a £30m expansion.
The bid by Titanic Quarter includes plans for a permanent, purpose-built centre to cater for major international events such as those hosted by the likes of Glasgow's Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and Dublin's RDS.
A planning proposal for the initial phase - opposite Titanic Studios - will be lodged later this month.
If given the green light, the centre could accommodate up to 300 exhibitors and 20,000 visitors.
The growth of the area has been gathering pace, with hotel expansion and further development on the cards.
More than 185 acres and around 100 companies have already put down roots in Titanic Quarter, employing thousands of people and attracting many more thousands through tourism.
A number of major hotel operators could add more than 500 new rooms to the quarter with the development of three new hotels, the largest of which is for a 244-bedroom property.
It could increase the number of beds in the city by a fifth and see hundreds of jobs being created once building gets under way.
The former Harland & Wolff headquarters and drawing offices - in which the ill-fated Titanic and more than 1,000 other ships were designed - is among the sites destined for a new lease of life as a luxury hotel.
Titanic Quarter chief executive David Gavaghan said the latest plans for the conference centre have been devised in response to demand.
"Over the last few years Titanic Quarter has been approached by a number of exhibition organisers from within and without Northern Ireland to consider developing a dedicated Titanic Exhibition Centre," he said.
"With strong initial interest already secured, including provisional bookings, we believe this is an opportune time to develop a new space in central Belfast that will allow the city to market itself as a destination for local and international consumer, lifestyle and trade events."
The Titanic boss said a new expo centre would complement existing facilities at Titanic Belfast, the Odyssey and Waterfront Hall, and help drive new visitors to the city.
He also expressed hopes it would provide a "tremendous boost" to the wider economy in Northern Ireland.
Planning for the new exhibition centre is the latest project under way in the Titanic Quarter. As many as 250 additional jobs could also be created through a new 84-bedroom hotel's construction at the old drawing rooms. Meanwhile, planning permission has also been granted for three further hotels in the vicinity of the city's flagship waterside tourist attraction.
The largest is for a 244-bedroom location, while the other successful applications also include 155 and 120-room hotels - both in the vicinity of Titanic Belfast.