Belfast Telegraph

Sirocco Quays, once set for £600m revamp before the downturn, back on the market

The former Sirocco Works in east Belfast
The former Sirocco Works in east Belfast
Workers leave the factory in 1968

By John Mulgrew

The historic 16-acre Sirocco site in east Belfast, which was to be transformed in a £600m investment, has gone on the market.

Sirocco Quays is located between the Short Strand and Bridge End.

However, the sprawling industrial site has been sitting largely disused for years after the firm due to develop it went under.

It has now been placed on the market by commercial property firm Colliers, though the asking price has not been disclosed.

Plans for the waterside development included 5,000 apartments, a hotel, an international convention centre, a supermarket, leisure facilities and other retail sites.

Asda had been tipped as operators of the supermarket.

Ewart Properties sold the Sirocco site for £40m to the Carvill Group in 2006.

The proposal was once billed as "a new cultural destination for the city" and was one of the Carvill Group's flagship Belfast projects.

Planning permission was granted for the ambitious development, but that was then expected to be reduced in scale.

However, Carvill Group, a company which made its name in construction as well as housebuilding, went into administration in 2011.

It is understood Belfast City Council's city and regeneration committee held a closed-doors meeting on the future of the Sirocco site last week.

On the agenda was what could be done to revamp and rebuild the area once a new buyer was found.

It is believed that the issue will now be presented during the next full council meeting in March.

In May, it was reported that Ulster Bank had sold Northern Ireland property loans originally worth £1.4bn for £205m in a deal with the US investment firm Cerberus. Loans originally taken out by Carvill Group on the Sirocco Works in east Belfast and by Leaside Investments for the proposed Royal Exchange shopping centre in the city were believed to be part of the massive deal.

The Sirocco Works was one of the highest-profile sites in Belfast to be affected by the loan sale.

The economic crash and the collapse in property prices were identified as big factors in the demise of Warrenpoint-based builders Carvill Group and their plans for a major redevelopment of the site.

The last remaining business in the area was Howden UK, formerly known as Sirocco Engineering Works.

Based at Queen's Road, it was one of the area's longest-running firms and was originally set up by Samuel Davidson in 1881. But it revealed it was closing down last year, with the loss of around 100 jobs. Howden makes fans and heat exchangers and operates in more than 17 countries.

The firm said some of the work in Northern Ireland would transfer to Glasgow, and staff could be offered alternative employment elsewhere.

Ewart Properties had previously bought the Sirocco site from Howden Sirocco in 2000 for £23m. Full demolition was finished in 2006. Ewarts had earlier proposed to construct a 129,000 sq ft office development and around 100 apartments alongside a 90,000 sq ft retail site.

Belfast Telegraph