Belfast Telegraph

Work on £400m Royal Exchange project could begin by summer

By John Mulgrew

A long-awaited £400m revamp of Belfast city centre could break ground this summer and will include a 'tall building' which could feature a mixture of apartments and retail.

The Royal Exchange development is a 12-acre site based around Royal Avenue.

And fresh plans from new owners Castlebrooke Investments show a move away from a retail-led scheme to include offices as well as accommodation, as part of a so-called 'mixed use' development.

Developers are eyeing up two possible sites for a 'tall building', - which could be anywhere from a dozen storeys upwards in size.

That includes a site at Rosemary Street and another off Bridge Street.

That building could include a hotel, as well as apartments, in a similar style, but not in scale, to Beetham Tower in Manchester.

It includes a Hilton hotel, and more than 200 luxury apartments. It's understood the first phase of Royal Exchange, which will take in Garfield Street and North Street, could begin as soon as July.

That includes a mixture of residential, retail, cafes and restaurants, as well as office space.

It's due to be followed by work around Rosemary Street.

But work on the large mixed-use 'tall building' is unlikely to begin until 2021.

It had been hoped that Royal Exchange would become a shopping village able to compete with Victoria Square, with hopes that John Lewis could be attracted to the spot.

However, a move away from a retail-led scheme means it's less likely that is a viable possibility now.

The idea of a 'tall building' as part of Royal Exchange was not part of the plans when they were initially envisaged by the William Ewart group.

Plans for what would become one of Belfast's biggest redevelopment projects in the last decade have been in the works for around five years.

The team behind Castlebrooke's plans includes Chapman Taylor, built heritage specialists Consarc Design Group, planning consultants Savills and commercial property firm Colliers.

The public was offered the chance to view the fresh plans during a consultation in Belfast yesterday. Two other events will be held at the MAC theatre on February 27 and 28.

Last year, Castlebrooke submitted a reworked planning application for the scheme, with changes which include phasing work across a longer period of time.

It is believed some of the loans relating to the Royal Exchange scheme had once been owned by US vulture fund Cerberus.

Belfast Telegraph