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Landmark Royal Avenue art deco building is sold

By John Mulgrew

Published 15/10/2015

The former Bank of Ireland headquarters on Royal Avenue
The former Bank of Ireland headquarters on Royal Avenue
The 2012 squat inside the Royal Avenue property

The former Bank of Ireland headquarters in Belfast city centre - once a squat for dozens of protesters - has been sold.

The five-storey listed art deco building on Royal Avenue is one of very few of the style left in the city.

It's set to become part of the ambitious £300m project to regenerate Belfast's Northside area.

It has lain vacant since Bank of Ireland relocated its HQ to Donegall Square South in 2005.

It was purchased that year, with plans to refurbish the building.

It's not known how much the property has been resold for.

It was designed by architect JV Downes of McDonnell & Dixon in Dublin and construction began in 1928.

The empty building made headlines three years ago when the Take Back The City element of the Occupy Belfast protest began squatting there.

The protesters finally left the building a few weeks later after police forced entry following a report that a radio had been flung from a window, narrowly missing a woman and young child on the pavement below.

Nikki McVeigh, chief executive of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS), said she hoped any development of the former bank building will be "a heritage-led scheme".

"One of the most notable examples of a limited number of art deco buildings in Belfast, the Bank of Ireland, Royal Avenue, has featured on the UAHS Built Heritage 'at risk' database for over 10 years," she said

"It is also acknowledged to be an early example of the use of a steel frame structure."

Another planning expert said it was an "important and symbolic" building in the heart of the city centre.

The building was sold by commercial property firm Lisney, along with properties at nearby Kent Street and North Street.

It's expected the building will become an integral part of the £300m Northside project, which is a partnership between developer Kevin McKay and the construction firm Balfour Beatty.

The planned huge development will include residential, commercial, retail and leisure facilities to reinvigorate this part of the city centre.

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