Belfast Tesco reopens after Primark fire closure
The Tesco Metro in Belfast has reopened almost nine months after the devastating Primark Bank Buildings fire forced its closure.
The store was put behind the safety cordon in the wake of the fire to allow for work to make the Primark building structure safe. It employs 95 full and part-time staff.
Over recent weeks the safety cordon has been scaled back allowing many of the 14 stores that were closed to reopen for business.
Since last August Royal Avenue, Donegall Place and Castle Place were transformed into pedestrianised zones with pop-up play parks, novelty seating, artificial grass and stalls around the area.
It has led to a debate on if the city centre streets should be closed to traffic permanently.
Those behind a petition for a permanent "pedestrian paradise" have said the re-organised city centre had created a "fun, more attractive and wonderfully family friendly" feel.
Retail NI said the move to reopen the store was welcomed but a rejuvenation fund was needed for the city centre.
Glyn Robert, chief executive of the organisation which represents independent traders, said: "We believe a 21st century city centre can be created with a dynamic retail and hospitality offer. There is no reason, with the right investment and partnership that Belfast couldn’t be in the top 10 of retail destinations in the UK.
“Top of our list is creating the conditions so that more independent retailers could locate in the city centre to offer something different and distinctive to consumers."
The president of the Belfast Chamber of Trade Rajesh Rana welcomed the re-opening of Tesco.
He said Belfast had been busier in the first part of this year compared to last year.
"Tesco has reopened and within a few weeks the buses will start to come down Royal Avenue as well," he told the BBC.
"There is a lot going on, a lot of reasons to come into the city and it's great to see the city come back to life."
He said there was a need to get more families back into the city but the short term was to get the roads reopened. He said the conversation on city planning should be addressed in the long term.
Fire devastated the historic Bank Buildings in the heart of the city at the end of August last year. The fire which began on a roof gutted the building leaving it at risk of collapse.
Work has been ongoing on bringing the building down with owners Primark pledging to restore its historic facade.
Belfast Telegraph Digital