Belfast Grand Central Hotel: Hastings unveils plan to transform Windsor House into a £30m hotel
The Belfast Grand Central Hotel - this will be the name of Northern Ireland's next big hotel.
Hastings Hotels today unveiled plans to transform Windsor House in Belfast - one of Ireland's tallest buildings - into a four-star hotel.
£30million will be spent revamping the landmark 23-storey property on Bedford Street.
It will be the seventh addition to the hotel chain - and is set to create 150 jobs when it opens in 2018.
"The hotel will operate at the upper end of the four-star market offering 200 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar, 18 serviced apartments and a range of superbly appointed office accommodation," said Sir William Hastings.
“This project is a huge undertaking for Hastings Hotels and it is has only been made possible by the strength of our existing hotels portfolio and the quality of our staff and management. It will bring the number of bedrooms in our group to over 1,000 making us the largest privately owned hotel chain on the island of Ireland."
Built in 1974, Windsor House is a dominant feature of Belfast's skyline. It was badly damaged in an IRA bomb in 1992 and was last sold in 2006 for £30m.
Best known as the base of the Parades Commission, it featured in numerous TV bulletins as interested parties filed in and out.
The original Grand Central was built in 1893 and was the thriving hub of Victorian Belfast as well as the finest hotel in Ireland, said Sir William.
"Winston Churchill, the King of Belgium, Al Jolson, Mario Lanza and the Beatles were all guests who enjoyed its luxurious hospitality. I am extremely proud to be able to pay tribute to this much loved property of the past by naming Belfast’s newest hotel after it," he said.
“Today I can also reveal the new branding for our new hotel, which incorporates the Seahorse. The Seahorse, part of Belfast’s Coat of Arms, celebrates the City’s Maritime history.
"Old photos from the Glory Days of the Grand Central show the Seahorse motif featuring on menus and plates. Our new interpretation of this classic Belfast emblem is a permanent reminder of the new Grand Central’s connection with its elegant past."
Hastings has appointed WDR & RT Taggart Architects in Belfast to design the building and promises to work with other local firms to build and furnish the hotel.
The acquisition represents the group's biggest single investment to date.
The project is subject to planning permission.
Hastings is one of Northing Ireland's leading hotel groups, owning and operating several high-profile hotels, including the nearby Europa Hotel, the five-star Culloden Estate and Spa, and the famous Slieve Donard in Newcastle, Co Down.
It bought Windsor House in May for £6.5m - £1.5m over the asking price.
The expansion of the Waterfront Hall and major events coming to the city were the reasons behind Hastings' investment. There is a drive to make Belfast more of a business destination, with business tourists spending three times more than a leisure tourist.
Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Jonathan Bell said he was very impressed by the vision for the new hotel: "This is great news for Belfast and for Northern Ireland, as the group’s continued investment is a massive vote of confidence in our tourism sector.
"The new hotel will add considerably to the local accommodation offering and allow Northern Ireland to capitalise further on the growing international business conference market.”