Call for speedy sale of former bank building in Bangor town centre
There have been calls for a quick turnaround sale of a former Danske Bank on Bangor's Main Street as it goes on the property market for £375,000.
Number 77 Main Street is a landmark detached two-storey listed building in the heart of Bangor town centre. It was originally constructed in 1780 and subsequently converted to the town hall in 1933 becoming the Northern Bank in 1952.
The building was used as a bank until earlier this year when its most recent owner, Danske Bank, announced its closure.
Ciaran Fox, director of the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA), explained the sale allows an investor to write the next chapter in the building's history.
He said: "This is a building of importance to the history of Bangor. It has been at the centre of community life as a market house, a court house, rent office, school, town hall and of course a bank. There is now an opportunity to write the next chapter on this building as it approaches the end of its second century of existence.
"It is a fine example of the benefit to society of creating buildings of quality. These building endure and can be adapted to each generation's needs.
"There is a lot of talk about sustainability at the moment, but people often overlook the value of designing buildings to endure. By cherishing these buildings we retain so much character in our towns."
The building, listed by property agents Osborne King, is not the first former bank of its kind to go on the property market.
Last September, 12 Ulster Bank buildings went up for sale with a collective price of £1.2m. Three of those were Grade B listed - two B1 buildings in Dromore and Castlederg and one grade B2 in Ballyclare.
President of Bangor Chamber of Commerce Geoff Thompson has called for a quick sale of the property to an investor who will "put it to good use" to drive footfall into the town.
"We're very keen to see it sold quickly and occupied quickly. It's another iconic building that needs to be utilised and while I don't have hopes for what it should be used as, I would like it draw people into the town," he said.
"We need to see these kinds of buildings occupied to give more reasons to come into town."
Speaking at the time of the closure, Richard Caldwell, Danske Bank's managing director of personal banking and small business, said the decision to shut the branch was due to "the way customers use branches" as more and more customers embrace digital banking.
"Unfortunately it means taking hard decisions to close certain branches that are being underused. We do not take such decisions lightly," he said.
And next to the Danske Bank on Bangor's main street is another listed former Ulster Bank building, also empty. Mr Thompson said: "The Ulster Bank was sold a couple of years ago and it has sat and done nothing. It's now up for rent but nobody has rented it."
Mr Thompson said he hoped the new buyer of the Danske Bank would have plans to invest heavily in the property. "These buildings are old and were built to be a bank so they would need significant investment if they were to be used as something like a bar or restaurant."
One such business that has purchased multiple historic bank buildings and put them to use in recent years has been hospitality firm Beannchor. It converted the former headquarters of the Ulster Bank on Waring Street into the five-star Merchant Hotel in 2006.
And it transformed a former Bank of Ireland property in Newtownards to house a Little Wing pizza outlet, and carried out a similar transformation on an old bank to open a Little Wing in Holywood.