Belfast Telegraph

The Bedford Hotel: Construction to begin on £12m boutique hotel in Belfast despite funding shortfall

By John Mulgrew

Work will finally start in September on the long-awaited Belfast hotel project at the former Scottish Mutual building - which will be named The Bedford Hotel, it can be revealed.

The £12m boutique project is set to get off the ground in just six weeks' time, following delays caused by a government funding shortfall.

And fresh tenders will be issued to contractors at the end of this month ahead of the planned work beginning at the six-storey building on Donegall Square South on September 7.

A spokesman for the hotel said "tenders would be issued to contractors by July 31, with a view to ensuing that full enabling works commence at The Bedford Hotel in early September.

"Once under way, this would be quickly followed by contracts issued for work on the external envelope, as well the main contract for internal redevelopment, thereafter."

Dublin-based architects Douglas Wallace have been appointed to oversee design of the project.

The majority of tenants in the building have already moved out, with building society Nationwide the last remaining business still in the premises.

And the development comes as the company behind the Galgorm Resort and delayed Bedford Hotel posted pre-tax profits of £2.8m.

Tullymore House Ltd - which is run by the Ballymena-based Hill family - also saw its turnover rise to £13m in the year to October 2014.

That was up from £12.3m on the period a year previous.

And its profits, aside from day-to-day activities, actually rose to £3.9m for the year, with £1.2m of that down to a one-off compensation payment or "financial redress" on a "financial product held with a previous bank". Its normal pre-tax profits remained flat, dropping slightly from the same period year-on-year.

Staff levels at the firm remained consistent, with the hotel group employing 317 during the year.

A spokesman for Tullymore House Ltd said the "results for 2014 reflect the planned progress being made as we continue to invest in infrastructure and develop capabilities which support long-term sustainable growth".

"We have already committed more than £22m in creating exciting new and enhanced facilities and capacity at Galgorm Resort & Spa to drive further growth in local, national and international visitors and to the redevelopment and sympathetic refurbishment of The Bedford Hotel in Belfast.

"We are confident that both of these important developments will also underpin Northern Ireland's wider, growing hospitality offer and tourism industry success."

The company is currently putting the finishing touches to its £10m extension to its Galgorm Resort & Spa, which is due to open in September.

It's then set to focus on its delayed Scottish Mutual hotel project.

It was one of first listed building projects to be hit by a grant freeze - leaving a shortfall in the project's funding.

It had hoped for more than £500,000 from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency towards the £12m project.

However, despite the funding setback the owners had remained optimistic that the project would be completed by the autumn of 2016.

The Hill family also opened a new restaurant - Fratelli - in Belfast towards the end of last year.

The Bedford Hotel will compete with several new developments in the city, including the nearby Grand Central Hotel - a new 200-bedroom hotel run by the Hastings Hotels group at the 23-storey Windsor House building on Bedford Street.

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