Developers behind the controversial Titanic Quarter project are considering turning the historic drawing rooms — where the liner was designed — into a hotel, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal today.
Speculation has been mounting in recent weeks over what exactly the company plans to do with the listed administration building after two applications were lodged with the Planning Service in January to change the use of the old Harland and Wolff offices.
The applications are to turn the drawing rooms — which once housed Lord Pirrie, Thomas Andrews and Alexander Carlisle — into function rooms, demolish the existing toilet wing “with re-instatement of facade” and erect pavilions for “ancillary uses” including a bar.
Under the Titanic Quarter Masterplan the drawing offices were earmarked for offices for “Titanic Quarter and a cultural centre” and the only reference to a hotel was at Abercorn Quay.
However, last night a spokesman for the Titanic Quarter project confirmed developers were considering using the Drawing Offices as part of a hotel.
“The proposed restoration of the Drawing Offices is part of an ongoing scheme to restore all of the former Harland & Wolff headquarters building,” the spokesman said. “This listed building is a unique reminder of Belfast's Titanic heritage and Titanic Quarter is working closely with Environment & Heritage to ensure that it is returned to its former glory and that the Drawing Offices are opened to the public for the first time in their history.
“The principle of public access has been agreed, but the detail is still to be worked out dependent upon the final use of the building.
“One future option could be to make it available for use as a boutique hotel which would be a major draw for local and overseas visitors, yet also give the public the opportunity to appreciate and enjoy the rooms where the Titanic was conceived and designed.”
Local historian Tom Neill, who is opposed to many elements of the Titanic Quarter project, said he was shocked when he discovered there were plans to use these rooms as part of a hotel.
“I feel very strongly about what the developers are doing to this site and wanted to inspect the plans in detail. These beautiful drawing offices are part of our history.
“The proposals which they initially put forward departs radically from the concept plan put forward in the Titanic Quarter Masterplan. It’s totally different. But they were not disclosing that and that’s what I take exception to.
“The administration building is one of the last remaining buildings on that site, the developers have removed everything else. Yes, the Pumphouse at Thompson Docks is still there but this building is the birthplace of the Titanic and it is so important to the heritage of Belfast and all of Northern Ireland and to think they are just going to knock the hell out of it and build some hotel is appaling.”
A spokesman from the Planning Service said so far it had not received an application for a hotel at this site however there was “an indication on the drawings for the application currently under consideration, that a hotel may be submitted in the future.”