Plans have been unveiled for the regeneration of a run down part of Belfast city centre which will involve the creation of a new square and street.
Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said her vision was for the west side of the city centre — the area from Fountain Lane to CastleCourt — to become a vibrant district.
The Westside regeneration masterplan includes a £5m revamp of Bank Square and a new street running from Fountain Lane to Chapel Lane.
In addition, a new city centre piazza, called Fountain Square, will become the heart of the new Westside quarter.
Ms Ritchie said the regenerated area would provide employment for almost 2,500, some in existing businesses and others in new shops, offices, hotels and restaurants.
Provision is being made for 22, 928sq metres of floorspace for retail, café and restaurant use, 23,803 sq metres of floorspace for offices, and 280 hotel rooms.
The minister said: "My vision for the Westside is to create a vibrant city centre district that connects west Belfast to the main shopping area and the central business district.
"The Westside regeneration proposals are innovative, radical and achievable, fully in line with my department's Regeneration Policy for Belfast.
"My proposals build on the area's existing strengths — well established independent traders, a strong unique historic character and preservation of the historic street pattern.
"I am promoting new sustainable development, sensitive to the area, with active ground-level street frontages and an open network of streets and squares."
Ms Ritchie said the facelift for Bank Square was a priority initiative which would be completed by 2010.
The Westside regeneration plan involves two key objectives:
l To revitalise the core of the area by creating a new street between Fountain Lane and Chapel Lane to link the prime retail pitch of Donegall Place with Castlecourt.
l To strengthen the existing businesses trading in the area by further integrating Castle Street with the west of the city on one side and through to Donegall Place on the other side.
Ms Ritchie said the aim was to increase shoppers and visitors into the area, boosting tourism, economic development and the evening economy.
Part of the scheme will be 322 new apartments, 20% of which are to be 'affordable housing'.
The Department for Social Development said public consultation on the plan would close on September 30.