Belfast Telegraph

£20m project ‘to boost east Belfast’

by Chris McCann

An exciting new project providing a major boost to the east Belfast economy is set to become a reality.

Plans for the £20m Skainos development, which aims to regenerate the run-down area of the lower Newtownards Road, were unveiled this week — with work to begin in September and to be completed by March 2012.

Nial O’Neill, of Donnelly O’Neill Architects, says the project will provide new commercial, community and residential space and that the design is “environmentally friendly”.

The development was designed in consultation with the local community and is being funded by the Department for Social Development, the European Union Peace III Programme, International Fund for Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland, whose East Belfast Mission will be moving into the complex. Oaklee Housing Association, which is also backing the project, will be based in the building along with Age NI and Belfast Metropolitan College.

It is regarded as a potential boost for the area, which has suffered decades of deprivation due to the decline in employment at the Harland & Wolff shipyard and from the effects of the Troubles.

The new facilities will include a 300-seat auditorium, family/youth centre, community hall, as well as social and private housing, community cafe and day nursery. In addition, there will be 5,800 sq ft of ground floor retail space and 11,100 sq ft of office space available to rent.

The centrepiece is a new civic square which opens on to the Newtownards Road and aims to provide a focal point for the community.

Robin Newton, east Belfast DUP MLA, welcomed the plans.

“For many years the Newtownards Road area has been neglected and fallen into need of regeneration,” he said.

“A project such as this will go a long way towards improving the facilities available to the local community.

“With the many groups involved in the implementing and development of this scheme it will also help to build a sense of community amongst those who benefit from the facility.

“This project is excellent news for the people of east Belfast.”

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