Multi-million pound Belfast developments approved
A massive multi-million pound building project in the heart of Belfast will go ahead, the City Council's planning committee has determined.
Bywater Properties and Ashmour's joint bid for the site of a car park at North Street/Smithfield Market will be converted into a 260,000 sq ft mixed office and retail complex capable of accommodating 1,500 people.
Up to 650 people are expected to be involved in the construction phase, which will involve two 'L-shape' buildings erected between Gresham Street and Winetavern Street, close to Royal Avenue.
The planning committee has also backed a proposal to build a 251-bed student accommodation block over the railway line between Botanic Avenue and University Road in south Belfast.
It comes 20 years after work was completed by Farrans Construction to cover the track with a concrete culvert.
Well-known Belfast property developer Andrew Creighton had been involved with the site for almost two decades, with a number of apartment projects failing to materialise.
But Holywood-based student accommodation specialist Lacuna Developments has now come on board as a partner for the project.
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And it's believed that the contractor for the project will be Farrans, who could be back on the site this summer, almost 20 years to the day when the firm completed work on the original culvert project in August 1999.
Lacuna - headed by Anthony Best, whose father Tony set up the firm - is involved with five major student-type accommodation projects in Belfast. It is also behind the 16-storey 'build-to-rent' Academy Street apartment scheme in Belfast's Cathedral Quarter.
Meanwhile, Bywater Properties' Patrick O'Gorman said the developers behind the Smithfield scheme had taken on board the feedback from stakeholders and the public when drafting its final plans.
While the project has been passed by Belfast City Council's planning committee, it remains subject to a final consideration from the Department for Infrastructure.
"Having gone through this process we are hopeful we will receive a similarly positive outcome from the Department for Infrastructure when they review the project," the developer said.
Work is not expected to begin on the project until 2020. It will see four main buildings, ranging from a 170,000 sq ft eight-storey office building to Sawtooth Studio', described as a "stripped back" workspace building with lower costs for smaller firms, start-ups and co-working operators. The main office blocks will also feature ground floor retail and cafe space.
"The approved scheme will allow for a mix of independent, eclectic businesses, creating a community that will benefit the immediate area and Belfast as a whole," the developer added.
"A number of the small businesses that are already well established here are very successful and unique and add real soul to this part of the city. It is essential we keep them here."