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Bunch of Grapes former UDA lair to be made into flats

Developer reveals plans for Bunch of Grapes pub, scene of several notorious murders

By Rebecca Black

Published 10/06/2016

The derelict Bunch of Grapes pub
The derelict Bunch of Grapes pub
An artist’s impression of the planned shops and apartments on the site

The site of one of the most notorious pubs of the Troubles is set to be transformed into a modern apartment complex.

The Bunch of Grapes on the Beersbridge Road in east Belfast has lain vacant for several years and become derelict.

It was snapped up by a London-based property developer earlier this year and is set to be transformed into a complex of 33 apartments and two shops.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal the planned new appearance of the property, its sleek lines a world away from the current Victorian exterior.

A planning application for the building was submitted to Belfast City Council this week.

If it is approved, the developers hope to start work on the site later this year.

The proposed development is the first of several projects planned in the city by a company called Empire Holdings. It follows numerous successful residential schemes in London.

Under the plans, the main block of the pub will include one and two-bedroom apartments over ground-floor shops, with parking to the rear. A shared first-floor garden terrace will overlook Beersbridge Road and provide substantial communal space for residents.

A smaller scale three-storey block facing onto Clandeboye Street will include more flats.

A spokesman for Empire Holdings said the company was formed in 2015 by a businessman to develop a number of buildings and sites across Belfast, following his successful career developing residential properties in central London.

The firm's current assets in Belfast include disused commercial and landmark buildings, such as former banks and pubs, all of which are undergoing design and feasibility studies with a view to entering the planning process imminently.

The spokesman said the process of planning to develop the site had taken some time, and that the firm aimed to provide homes in an area of demand.

"Following a 12-month programme of acquiring various disused commercial buildings and development plots in Belfast, Empire Holdings is delighted to move to the planning phase with this landmark project in collaboration with C60 Architects and Town Planners," he added.

The Bunch of Grapes was once the notorious lair of the UDA, and was owned for a time by the terror group's self-styled brigadier Jim Gray.

The building was additionally the scene of the brutal torture and murder of loyalist Geordie Legge in 2001.

It is also where Jim Craig was killed in 1988, when the pub was known as the Castle Inn.

Last year the 0.61 acre site was effectively repossessed by Nama, the Republic's State-controlled bad bank and is understood to have sold for around £65,000.

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