Belfast Telegraph

Belfast Royal Exchange plans to build 27-storey high-rise and create 6,000 jobs

By John Mulgrew

The £400m Royal Exchange revamp of part of Belfast city centre could include a 27-storey high-rise building as part of the ambitious scheme which it's claimed will create 6,000 jobs.

Developer Castlebrooke has now submitted outline plans for the ambitious scheme, which include the redevelopment of a 12-acre site based around Royal Avenue.

The project is said to be the "largest ever single redevelopment in Belfast city centre".

The plans include a number of retail developments, offices, hotel and landscaping, along with the demolition of seven existing premises, and the restoration of listed buildings.

Developers say as many as 900 construction jobs could be created during the building work.

It's understood those behind the scheme are choosing to knock down fewer buildings, as outlined in an initial masterplan.

There had been a backlash from conservation groups, with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society saying the scheme "perpetuates Belfast's complete lack of a coherent plan to enhance the city's unique selling points with quality architecture".

The plan will include the creation of three new streets, helping to connect Royal Avenue with the start of the Cathedral Quarter. The redevelopment includes Donegall Street, North Street, Lower Garfield Street, High Street and Lombard Street.

Work has also started on the restoration of a vacant listed building at the corner of Lower Garfield Street.

A spokesman for the developer Castlebrooke said it is "conscious of the huge responsibility" it faces and added that, following concerns raised in a public consultation, it had "modified" plans to "ensure that we are creating an international standard development that blends and protects the unique cultural and historic legacy of Belfast's north-eastern quarter with a 21st century need for buildings and spaces that facilitate the future needs of both residents and businesses".

The largest part of the scheme includes a high-rise building - located at the corner of Rosemary Street and Bridge Street - which will be between 24 and 27 storeys, and up to 93 metres tall.

That would make it the second-tallest building in Belfast, behind the Obel apartment development at 28 storeys.

The majority of the building would be residential, with some retail and office space. There is also provision within the overall scheme for a large retailer to set up shop. There had been speculation it could attract John Lewis to Belfast.

Addressing some concerns over buildings being razed or altered significantly as part of the scheme, architect Dawson Stelfox, chairman of Consarc Design Group, said "all seven of the listed buildings in the area are being restored and put back into use which includes the provision of cultural space.

"Three new streets, and a proposed laneway, increase permeability, improving the pedestrian connections."

Belfast Telegraph

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