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Royal Exchange: Public to have their say on £400m city centre redevelopment project

By John Mulgrew

The public will have the chance next week to see fresh plans for a massive £400m redevelopment of Belfast city centre.

Castlebrooke Investments will begin a public consultation on February 14 as it moves forward with the Royal Exchange development plans for the city.

The 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.

And last summer, Castlebrooke took over the 12-acre site, based around Royal Avenue.

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.

A spokesperson for Castlebrooke Investments said: "We are pleased to launch a public consultation into the future of this significant area in Belfast.

"This is the start of a process to revitalise a site which has been badly in need of regeneration for some time. While we are ready to invest in the scheme we want to make sure the whole community has a chance to have their say on the way that investment is delivered.

"We intend to implement the scheme in a way that protects the important heritage of the area by starting with the refurbishment of Garfield Street and the Northern Bank on Waring Street."

He added: "With Ulster University's new campus under construction, building under way on several new student housing schemes, Belfast City Council bringing forward plans for a new 'cultural hub' and work set to commence on the third phase of the Department for Communities Streets Ahead Programme, there is already substantial investment taking place to enhance the city centre. We believe our scheme will be an important part of this vibrant new vision."

The team behind the plans includes Chapman Taylor, built heritage specialists Consarc Design Group, planning consultants Savills and commercial property firm Colliers.

Dawson Stelfox from Consarc Conservation said: "The team working on the project are very aware of the public interest in this historically important part of the city.

"The plans submitted for consultation aim to bring economic regeneration that benefits Belfast and its people, but which also recognises the area's built heritage, listed buildings and cultural significance alongside its potential as a mixed use destination."

And Jonathan Millar, director at Colliers in Belfast, said: "The city centre regeneration proposals represent a fantastic opportunity for new investment in a part of the city centre which is already attracting interest from national and international funds.

"This mixed use development will play a major role in joining together Belfast's two main retail locations and further increasing the overall connectivity of the city."

The public consultation events will take place at The Mac in Belfast on February 14, 27 and 28.

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