Plan to convert Belfast's Crumlin Road Courthouse into luxury £10m hotel gets go-ahead
Planning permission has been approved by Belfast City Council to convert the former Crumlin Road Courthouse into a £10m, 77-bed hotel, which could open as early as autumn 2019.
The man behind the project, Liverpool-based Signature Living developer Lawrence Kenwright, said the site will see a clearing up process begin next week to allow work to begin.
The hotel is expected to add 150 new jobs to the hospitality sector here.
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The hotel, which will be named Lanyon Hotel after the building's original architect, Charles Lanyon, will have a rooftop extension to accommodate function space.
It will also "retain and restore" the main courtroom to become a focal point for tourists, according to the planning document.
It adds: "The remainder of the ground floor will become the reception/bar area, kitchen, and guest rooms. Spa facilities will occupy the basement rooms, with further accommodation to the upper floors."
Speaking from Shanghai, Mr Kenwright said: "It's taken 18 months and I'm just glad to be able to get in and get it done.
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"We couldn't raise the funds for the project until we got planning approval, so now that's done we will clear up the site within the next week. We already have contractors ready to start working."
Mr Kenwright said the work would be carried out by Irish contractors and the building would be restored sympathetically.
"There is a lot of work to be done, some parts of the building have decayed and need replaced, other parts need restored.
"We will be sympathetic to the heritage of the building and will be in constant contact with conservation to make sure they are happy.
"But this is what we do, we take old buildings and convert them. We did a similar thing in Cardiff, of a similar standard of heritage and it had the same issues, so we don't see it being much more difficult than that."
Around 80% of Mr Kenwright's businesses are located in listed buildings. The Exchange in Cardiff was dilapidated prior to its opening last year.
He said that work on the roof of the courthouse would be one of the more challenging jobs for contractors, with just 15% of it remaining. Describing the look of the hotel, he added: "Every room will have a story to tell, the style will be in keeping with building, but we will funk it up to make it quite strong and memorable. It will be quite like our Cardiff hotel."
Asked if it would link up with Crumlin Road Gaol and make a feature of the underground tunnel that connects the two buildings, he said: "We have no control over the tunnel and I would have no right to say we would use it, but we are asking questions."
The conversion of the Crumlin Road Courthouse will be Mr Kenwright's third hotel project in the city.
He is also currently transforming the old Scottish Mutual Building, next to Belfast City Hall, into the new George Best Hotel, which he says is on course to open in the first week of December.
He's also pressing ahead with another hotel in the Cathedral Quarter, on the site of the former war memorial museum in Waring Street.