The construction of a new £6m Premier Inn hotel in Londonderry has started.
The hotel — in the Crescent Link area of the Waterside — will see the creation of 65 local jobs.
The hotel is part of a massive £56m mixed-use complex earmarked for the area.
A decision on planning permission for a new flagship Sainsbury’s store, cinema, health facility and a range of other business and retail units is expected from Environment Minister Alex Attwood within weeks.
The foundation stone has now been laid at the hotel site.
Mayor of Derry Maurice Devenney and Assembly Speaker William Hay joined GML (NI) development director Mark Adams and the regional manager of Premier Inn Hotels, Ireland, Cathy Hopkins, for the cutting of the first sod.
The Crescent Link Master Plan, formulated by developers the Orana Group and its partners, is expected to result in hundreds of jobs, if approved.
“This is hopefully the first exciting step in this major regeneration project focused on quality, sustainable, long-term job creation for approximately 2,000 people on completion. The scheme is primarily focused on retaining local talent and ultimately, attracting further inward private investment,” said Mr Adams of GML (NI), a subsidiary of Orana.
“The first Premier Inn operation to be announced for the city, the Crescent Link hotel, will strengthen Derry-Londonderry's tourism offering whilst providing a welcome boost for the local construction industry.”
Mr Devenney said the provision of a new hotel was excellent news for the local economy and tourism industry.
”The provision of additional hotel accommodation is welcome news as we prepare for the UK City of Culture in 2013 when all eyes will be on our city and region as we host a year-long schedule of world-class events,” he said.
Cathy Hopkins said that the North West provided the company with a highly attractive marketplace in which to develop the brand. “With the city's tourism figures expected to double in 2013, we are delighted to bring a new Premier Inn to the heart of Derry-Londonderry,” she added.
The chain, part of Whitbread plc, is the largest hotel operator in the UK with over 600 hotels. It currently has seven operating in Northern Ireland.
The hotel is scheduled for completion by Christmas this year, ahead of the 2013 City of Culture celebrations. Covering a site area of 1.6 acres, the new 60-bedroom hotel will include a 200-seat Brewers Fayre family restaurant.
The hotel is the first phase of the wider proposed £56m Crescent Link Master Plan, which includes a Sainsbury’s store and many other businesses.