Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 December 2014

The future's bright as millions of pounds are pumped into the city

Investment plans: this part of Royal Avenue is to get a new restaurant and a bar among other amenities
Investment plans: this part of Royal Avenue is to get a new restaurant and a bar among other amenities

Change is afoot in Belfast city centre. We have all enjoyed the fantastic buzz that came with the opening of Victoria Square in March 2008, marvelled at how good Belfast looks from the dome and enjoyed nights out in the restaurants and cinema in the complex. But what about the rest of the city, what about CastleCourt and Royal Avenue?

The northern quarters had in recent history been considered the poor relation of the 'central' area. Most people visiting CastleCourt would invariably walk out on to Royal Avenue and turn right.

This is set to change.

We have already seen the catalytic impact of recent developments such as The MAC and St Anne's Square on the dynamic of Cathedral Quarter, which has become the undisputed hub of urban nightlife.

But there is more to come. The recent announcements of investment in Royal Avenue are part of the much bigger story in this part of the city.

University of Ulster is investing £250m in a new campus just a stone's throw away, bringing 12,450 students into the city centre and creating a regeneration multiplier of 5:1.

This is really big news for Belfast. What we see emerging are the stepping stones of investment which will knit the city together, linking destinations such as City Hall, Waterfront Hall, Victoria Square, University of Ulster, Royal Exchange and Belfast Transport Hub.

Part of this knitting together will be delivered on the ground by the DSD Streets Ahead 3 project with an investment of £30m continuing the public realm improvements along Royal Avenue and York St to Frederick St.

Further projects are planned as part of the Northside Urban Regeneration Framework.

When we think about what makes a city work, it's about the sum of the parts; how the differing elements of the city both challenge and complement each other.

Helen Harrison is director of JUNO Planning and Environmental in Belfast

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