Ambitious £50m waterfront plan for Northern Ireland town
The long-awaited £50m revamp of Bangor's Queen's Parade will include a "world-class" public realm on a site currently occupied by a car park, it's been claimed.
The plans for events space, a hotel, cafes, homes and office space are led by Bangor Marine, a joint venture of construction firms Farrans and Karl Group. Plans are being put to a public consultation in Bangor this week.
Todd Architects are the designers behind the new waterfront redevelopment, while celebrity designer Wayne Hemingway is an advisor on the project. Development of the area has been discussed since around 1997.
Aran Blackbourne, director of Karl Group, said: "Our design team is well-travelled and Wayne Hemingway is bringing great ideas about what's happened in other locations in the UK and Ireland so that Bangor becomes a place more and more people really want to come to."
The plans include the removal of the Marine Gardens car park, which would be turned into a "world class" public realm, Mr Blackbourne said.
And he added he believed that funding could be raised for the scheme. "I think projects for long-term regeneration like this one are very fundable," he said.
"Investors are more open to longer-term and very sustainable returns."
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While earlier plans had involved two hotels, the new project involves just one hotel of up to 80 beds. "It has to be a hotel with a generous restaurant and bar space to encourage people to come for the weekend - and to encourage people in the town to come and use it," he said.
Asked if Beannchor Group - the hospitality company which started out in Bangor, taking its name from the Irish for Bangor - could be interested, he said: "There could be a potential opportunity for Beannchor, and we are always in touch with them.
"They have a strong affiliation with the town and we are in discussions with them."
The development of new offices is a major part of the project.
Mr Blackbourne said drawing more people into working in the town centre was crucial.
The joint venture is operating on the basis of a five-year plan, with 100 people employed continuously on the project, he added.
Mr Blackbourne said the public response had been "tremendous so far".
"The website has been very active with people making comments, and a steady stream of people coming in to the Project 24 hub in Bangor," he added.
Karl Group was linked to earlier plans for the development of the site in 2009 through Karl Greenfarm Properties.
The site was acquired by the-then Department for Social Development in 2012, then put up for sale at the end of last year.