Ewarts: Green light for scheme to redevelop Victorian linen warehouse in Belfast
The renovation of a former Victorian linen warehouse and a 17-storey office extension have been given the go-ahead.
The B+ listed Ewarts building on Bedford Street is due to be redeveloped and altered, alongside plans for a second new 17-storey development, linked by a second-floor walkway.
And after sitting empty and disused for around 20 years, work can now begin on transforming the building and surrounding area.
Approval was given during last night's Belfast City Council planning committee meeting.
The warehouse is located beside the headquarters of Invest NI.
The four-storey sandstone structure was designed by James Hamilton, also the architect of Belfast's Waring Street Ulster Bank, now the Merchant Hotel.
The warehouse was completed in 1869 and extended twice, in 1883 and then in 1937.
Bedford Street Enterprises Ltd – part of the McAleer & Rushe Group – which owns the site, is proposing alteration, refurbishment and extension of the building to provide grade A office accommodation with basement car parking. Belfast City Council planners said the proposed "addition of approximately 17,000 square metres of office space in the tower development is welcomed at this location, which is within the city centre office area contained in the development plan".
Stephen Surphlis, property director at McAleer & Rushe, said: “This planning approval is a welcome boost to the Belfast office market, with the second phase of Bedford Square bringing a landmark building back into active use after many years of vacancy and helping to alleviate the shortage of grade A space in the city.
“The first phase of Bedford Square has been a great success and we now have the opportunity to complete the vision with the creation of much-needed business space and new public realm which, together with our Maldron Hotel and QUB student accommodation developments on the adjoining Brunswick Street site, will make a huge contribution to the regeneration of Belfast’s Linen Quarter and this part of the city.”
And speaking about the scale of the new extension, planners said "the view of the Ewart building from City Hall and on approach to the city from Bedford Street will largely remain unaltered".
The new development could bring in around 2,000 additional people to the Bedford Street area, according to the planning statement.
It adds that while "the facilities in terms of location to public transport are considered acceptable, the impact on the amenity of the surrounding area has the potential to be significant".
"The public realm in the vicinity of the proposal is lacking and requires significant upgrading.
"Whilst it is acknowledged that the Bedford Square civic space element of this proposal will help enhance open space in the area, the Brunswick Street/ McClintock Street area to the rear of the tower and the rest of the Linen Quarter as a whole is recognised to be lacking."
Concerns had been raised about the scheme, including an eleventh hour submission from the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS), which was concerned about the impact of the development on the listed building. Ewarts Linen Warehouse has been on the at-risk register since 2003.
A plan to restore and convert it into a hotel was approved in 2008 but never came to fruition.