A touch of glass to brighten Belfast city centre as £250m campus blueprint is revealed
Two giant lanterns will light up Belfast's skyline while new glass-fronted buildings are set to transform one of the city's most familiar landmarks.
Now that the University of Ulster's ambitious plans for the Art College have been approved, the search is on to find the construction companies which will build the new £250m campus in the heart of the city.
The Belfast City Campus, which will take in the existing York Street campus as well as the York House, Playboard, Metropole House and Interpoint Buildings, will cover 75,000 square metres – equivalent to the size of the Victoria Square shopping centre.
On one side of the campus, the building will be red brick and glass and the other white brick and glass to reflect the pattern of surrounding buildings in Royal Avenue.
The focal points will be two glass lantern-shaped buildings, one at the corner of York Street and Dunbar Link and one at the corner of Donegall Street and York Street, which will illuminate the Belfast skyline at night.
Firms from across Europe have now been invited to tender for the first phase of the project, which includes the demolition of the Playboard and York House building, followed by construction work on the razed site.
Professor Alastair Adair from the university said: "We hope to get through the procurement process in the next two to three months. We will like to think there will ultimately be a demolition phase in the summer with construction getting under way later on in the autumn."
It is hoped that the first phase of the new campus will ready to open its doors to students in September 2015.
The new building will be home to art and design students who are currently located in the Orpheus Building on York Street, which will also be flattened to allow work to commence on the second phase. The University of Ulster is hoping the campus, which will accommodate Belfast and Jordanstown students, will open its doors in 2018.
With a £250m investment, the university believes there is the potential for 5,000 to 8,000 jobs across construction and other sectors that support major capital works.
Community, business and political leaders were urged on Monday by the University of Ulster's chancellor Dr James Nesbitt to grasp the opportunities that the new Belfast City Campus presents.
Speaking days after planners gave the development the green light, the actor said: "A campus of this size will provide opportunities – not just for this university but also for our partners in devolved Government departments, Belfast City Council, political, business and community representatives – opportunities for business, opportunities for retail outlets, opportunities for catering establishments and opportunities for social enterprise.
"Through our public sector working group and community engagement model, the university will work hard with all our partners to ensure Belfast is ready to take advantage of those opportunities.
"The university will, as I said, do its bit. The planning decision allows us to get on with that. But business and community leaders, central and local government will have a vital role, too, and I call on you all today – business, Government and community – to embrace this opportunity, an opportunity that the Environment Minister Alex Attwood said recently was a once in a generation opportunity."
5 campus facts
1. The new campus has been designed by Fielden Clegg Bradley architects
2. Around 14,000 students and 1,500 staff will occupy the building.
3. The Department for Employment and Learning has pledged £16m to the new campus.
4. The campus will not have student accommodation – that will continue to be provided at the Jordanstown campus.
5. The development is expected to generate over £1bn for the local economy in terms of jobs, investment, spend etc over the next decade.