Belfast Telegraph

Riverfront's revamp can be massive asset

By Clare Weir

Northern Ireland needs to properly develop its riverfront spaces, according to one of the architects behind the plans for a proposed new £20m extension to Belfast's Waterfront Hall.

Robinson Mclwaine were also responsible for the original design of the complex back in the 1990s.

John Reid from the firm said that the process to revamp the Waterfront Hall was a real "labour of love".

It is envisaged that the 7,000sq ft new extension, which will provide additional conference facilities, will be built to the rear of the building and over the current service yard area.

The plans are part of an overall multi-million pound three-year programme for Belfast which the city council hopes could create thousands of jobs and revitalise the overall economy.

"We originally began work on the Waterfront Hall 20 years ago so it is fantastic to be included in plans for its redevelopment," said Mr Reid.

"We hope to better integrate the building with the area that has since grown up around it, as the front of the hall has become rather congested.

"If it goes ahead as we hope, there will be no other space like that in the city in terms of hosting conferences and other events."

But Mr Reid said that more needs to be done to capitalise on the opportunities offered by the Lagan.

"Belfast has struggled to produce enough key buildings on the waterfront," he said.

"We have worked in the Titanic quarter in the past, mostly residential projects and on the redevelopment of the old Harland -amp; Wolff headquarters.

"Opportunities exist in many spaces along the river and we need to develop these sites, we need more public use buildings, more signature projects, so that we can favourably compare to many other cities across the world who make their riverside settings into an asset.

"Londonderry is another city which has struggled to make the best of its riverfront."

Based in Patrick Street in Belfast, Robinson Mclwaine was established in 1963 and has worked on well known projects across Belfast.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Civil Engineers (ICE) has welcomed the announcement that Belfast City Council will invest a total of £233m on capital projects and the regeneration of the city.

Wendy Blundell, ICE regional director, said the project will inject "much needed enthusiasm and a renewed energy" among the local civil engineering profession.