Belfast Telegraph

Former home to the elite of Belfast could become apartments

By Margaret Canning

A developer hopes to restore one of Belfast's most neglected listed buildings in what used to be among the city's most exclusive areas.

Upper Crescent off Botanic Avenue became a sought-after address for the professional and business classes after parts of it were completed in 1848.

However, its builder Robert Corry had to hoodwink his wife Jane into agreeing to live there.

Neil McCann, of Property Development NI, now wants to turn 14 to 16 Upper Crescent, thought to have been built in 1901, into 21 apartments.

Upper Crescent is believed to be the city's only curved terrace and is lauded as an example of neo-classical Regency-style architecture. But 14 to 16 have been derelict for the last few decades - and the terrace as a whole has many vacant buildings, apart from housing the headquarters of listed company Kainos plc.

A planning application has been lodged to turn it into apartments, with three ground floor and second floor back extensions.

Gavin Rolston, planning director at consultancy firm Clyde Shanks, said the restoration and transformation would be carried out sympathetically and that he was hopeful the application would be approved by Belfast City Council. He added: "Apartments are the most economically viable way of restoring the properties to their former glory."

The terrace was once occupied by Belfast's wealthiest people after they began moving out of their homes in the city centre and into the suburbs. The crescent was built by timber and shipping merchant Robert Corry, who himself lived there in what was known for some time known as Corry's Crescent.

Historian Alice Johnson, who is writing a book, Middle Class Society in Victorian Belfast, said: "The Corry business had been based in Newtownards but Robert wanted to move to Belfast - however, his wife Jane didn't.

"Robert then conspired to invite Jane to see the company premises in Belfast. But the moment she'd left in her carriage from Newtownards, Robert organised for every bit of their furniture to be moved to Belfast.

"As she was visiting the company in Belfast, he was moving the furniture. Then he asked her into what would be her home in Upper Crescent - and there was every last bit of her furniture."

Ultimately, Jane Corry may have acclimatised.

"At that time one of the most prestigious addresses in a very salubrious area in Belfast, it was where the great and the good were moving to," Mrs Johnson added.

Belfast Telegraph