Belfast Telegraph

£15m high-rise Belfast project given nod by planners

Artist’s impression of the 16-storey apartment building planned for Academy Street
Artist’s impression of the 16-storey apartment building planned for Academy Street
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

Plans for Belfast's first 'build to rent' apartment scheme have been given the thumbs-up.

The £15m project in the Cathedral Quarter is expected to create 110 jobs.

Belfast City Council officials have completed a report recommending the green light for the 16-storey building on Academy Street, between Ulster University and The MAC.

It will go before the City Hall's planning committee on Tuesday.

The application from Holywood firm Lacuna and Welsh and developer Watkin Jones for 90 units was downsized from an original 19-storey structure with 105 units.

Made up of 60 two-bed and 30 one-bed apartments, the project will require the demolition of an existing building that has been vacant for more than a decade.

Most of the site had been used for car parking in recent years.

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The ground floor of the high-rise will include a cafe, a management suite and services.

The proposal also says it will bring improvements to the public realm on the surrounding Academy Street, Exchange Street and Hector Street.

The development is expected to create 110 jobs, both directly and indirectly, during the construction phase and 25 when completed.

Lacuna and Watkin Jones say the apartments could house 145 residents, bringing an estimated £1.8m in economic spend in the city centre area.

The site is located just across the road from a planned 430-bed student block on Little Patrick Street by the same developers, which was granted approval earlier this year.

The developers are behind three other student accommodation projects in the city. They said their combined investment in Belfast will eventually top £100m.

The Academy Street plan is one of three major build to rent schemes proposed for Belfast. They involve secure long-term tenancies from a landlord who retains ownership.

In January local firm Vinder Capital Ltd and London-based Aldgate Developments announced the £25m Residence at Quay Gate scheme in east Belfast.

Just last month Olympian Homes, the owners of the former UTV studios at Havelock House in the south of the city, announced plans to demolish the building and replace it with rental-only accommodation.

In the report on the Academy Street bid, planning officials said the decision to approve was made after "a finely balanced consideration" between the potential impact on the cathedral conservation area and the provision of "a landmark piece of architecture" in place of a vacant building and surface car park.

The report highlighted the economic boost of bringing more than 100 residents into the city centre, along with the considerable level of investment in the building phase.

Planners also described the build-to-let scheme as "unique to Belfast", adding that it "will create a new form of residential accommodation in the city centre".

The report concludes: "This mix of residential and retail uses will add to the diversity of the city centre and complement the nearby University of Ulster (sic)whilst driving the much needed regeneration of this area and increasing the rates base that can be used for wider investment."

According to the Future Belfast website, the high-rise was designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios. It said the company Five Nine Living is expected to manage the building.

Belfast Telegraph