Belfast Telegraph

Cornmarket building to be given new lease of life after £2m sale

The Spirit of Belfast before the sculpture in Cornmarket, Belfast
The Spirit of Belfast before the sculpture in Cornmarket, Belfast
Ryan McAleer

By Ryan McAleer

A deteriorating building in the heart of Belfast city centre is to get a new lease of life after being sold for around £2m just before Christmas.

The four-storey structure at 16-24 Cornmarket has been vacant since the closure of retailer Priceless Shoes in 2009, when the company went into administration.

It's understood that a local investor has acquired the building for slightly above the £1.8m asking price.

Coleraine investor David Lamont, who already owns a significant swathe of property in nearby Castle Lane, was among those linked with a purchase of the 1960s-era building.

The owners are expected to modernise, creating a new ground floor retail space next to one of Belfast's busiest thoroughfares.

Footfall rose sharply in the area in the wake of the Primark fire last August.

Analysis by Belfast City Council revealed that almost 250,000 people passed through Cornmarket during September 2018 - 41% more than the same month in 2017.

Sign In

This compares with the 153,000 people who passed through Donegall Place in September 2017.

The former BHS premises on Castle Lane, just around the corner, is also undergoing a major refurbishment.

Irish department chain Guineys opened in one part of the former BHS site late last year.

The rest of the extensive premises - around 90,000 sq ft over several floors - remains an active work site. It's expected to result in a new 30,000 sq ft ground floor retail space in the next six to nine months. It's believed that a major retailer, which is not currently represented in Belfast city centre, is being lined up to take on the premises.

The newly acquired property at 16-24 Cornmarket has a long history associated with retail and entertainment in the city.

According to the Future Belfast website, the building sits on the location of the old Imperial Picture House. The cinema was opened in 1914 and operated until 1959, when it was eventually demolished.

The current building was erected in 1960, initially housing handbag merchants Sterlings for around two decades.

Belfast Telegraph