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Royal Exchange plans revealed for Belfast project

Work could soon start on huge £360m city scheme

By John Mulgrew

Published 25/08/2016

An early artist’s impression showing what the Royal Exchange development in Belfast city centre could look like once completed
An early artist’s impression showing what the Royal Exchange development in Belfast city centre could look like once completed

Work on the £360m Royal Exchange project in Belfast city centre could soon begin after fresh plans were submitted.

The new owners of the 12-acre area, which is based around Royal Avenue, have now submitted a reworked planning application for the scheme.

The changes include phasing work on the huge project across a longer period of time.

It foresees the main superstructure taking more than two-and-a-half years to build.

The change of plans also includes a breakdown of works over the next two to three years.

It says that initial "enabling works" and demolition is predicted to take around nine months from start to finish.

Piling and substructure work would begin three months into the initial work, and take around a year to complete.

Following that, the superstructure would be built, followed by around a year to fit out the development.

The area is located in and around Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, North Street, Garfield Street and High Street.

Castlebrooke Investments, which bought the site earlier this year, said it is "formulating plans for a mixed-use development" and is working with Belfast City Council on the scheme.

Plans for what would become one of Belfast's biggest redevelopment projects in the last decade have been in the works for around five years.

Many of the buildings stretch around Royal Avenue and into the Cathedral Quarter, with the redevelopment due to include cafes, bars, restaurants, leisure facilities, apartments and offices, along with a huge retail space.

Those behind the scheme say the "phasing strategy" allows for "greater flexibility should external market conditions and occupancy demands" alter plans.

The plans will include the redevelopment of buildings including the former Northern Bank building on Waring Street and the Garfield building on Waring Street. Around £360m had been put aside to transform the 12-acre site.

The sale price of the site was not disclosed.

A planning application was also approved by the Department of the Environment more than four years ago.

In November last year the Department for Social Development revealed that it had terminated a deal with the property development company Leaside Investments to proceed with the scheme.

It was hoped that Royal Exchange would become a shopping village that was able to compete with Victoria Square, with hopes John Lewis could be attracted to the spot.

It is believed some of the loans relating to the Royal Exchange scheme had been owned by Cerberus, the US vulture fund which purchased Nama's Northern Ireland property portfolio in 2014.

Belfast Telegraph

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