Belfast Telegraph

Contractors wanted for £700k repair work on Belfast's crumbling Mac

By John Mulgrew

Belfast's landmark Metropolitan Arts Centre (Mac) is looking for contractors to fix the crumbling facade of the theatre, it can be revealed.

And the repair work could start as soon as next month.

The Mac, which only opened in April 2012, is seeking to appoint an 'integrated consultant team' for the entire project, from design and management, for a new stone facade.

Just last week, Stormont's Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin voiced her determination to retrieve the estimated £1m needed to fix up the Mac.

Her vow came after the Assembly heard of fears the public purse is having to "pay twice" for the building. Stonework at the entrance of the £18m Mac began crumbling last year.

Now, the Mac is actively seeking a new contract for the work. That contract will include consultants, an architect, structural engineers and a quantity surveyor.

The total value of the contract, according to the fresh tender, is valued at around £700,000.

A spokesman for the Mac said work is expected to start soon, upon the successful appointment of consultants. And he said the Mac was hopeful the entire project would be completed by early next year. The Belfast Telegraph revealed last year that stonework at the entrance of the award-winning theatre began to crumble. The Culture Minister previously told the Assembly "we would not expect to be running into these difficulties within three years of the building being developed".

"When you spend that amount of public money, people expect a better return, particularly in these times," she said.

There had been investigations into the causes and possible liability for large chunks of basalt stone tiles falling off the exterior of the six-storey venue.

Scaffolding now covers the majority of the Mac's facade. But despite initial concerns raised last year, as chunks of the basalt stone tiles began to fall off the structure, it has remained open for business.

The venue boasts two theatres, three art galleries, a dance studio, workshops, a cafe and a bar.

In 2013 the building was recognised for its architectural excellence with a National Award by the Royal Institute of British Architects. And it has also updated its food offering, thanks to Native restaurant opening late last year.

It's a joint venture between Yellow Door Deli's Simon Dougan and Phil Rodgers. And it received high praise from Belfast Telegraph food critic Joris Minne, who said while the "food was always good in the Mac, wwnow that Native is in, it has raised the bar even higher".

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