Derelict Belfast linen building to become £85m hub for multinational Deloitte
A Victorian linen house in Belfast city centre is to become the second largest UK hub of a multinational company seeking to expand its base here.
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Deloitte has signed up as the anchor tenant in a new £85m Bedford Street development, with the abandoned Ewart Building at its centre.
The vacant four-storey sandstone warehouse, designed by James Hamilton for the Bedford Street Weaving Company and completed in 1870, will host a state-of-the-art Deloitte Digital and Greenhouse space.
Jackie Henry, senior partner at Deloitte in Belfast, described the firm's new home as a symbol of Deloitte's commitment to the city, which will "breathe life back into one of our beautiful but neglected heritage buildings" and help create hundreds of jobs.
The altered B+ listed building will be linked to an adjacent 17-storey office block by a second floor walkway.
Deloitte has acquired almost half of the 213,000 square foot Bedford Square site and expects to have 1,000 employees based there by 2022, making it the company's largest UK hub by headcount outside London.
Ms Henry said the significant investment reflected the firm's confidence in Belfast, which it considers to be a high-quality talent base.
The grade A office development will be able to accommodate a total of 2,000 people in a prime city centre location, in addition to housing all of Deloitte's core business activities, such as auditing, taxes and consulting, as well as new areas of technological expertise.
However, Ulster Architectural Heritage (UAH), which opposed the development plans in 2016, expressed fears over "substantive demolition" of parts of the building.
"UAH welcomes the reuse of historic buildings, particularly buildings at risk, only when policy is followed and proposals are sympathetic and appropriate to our historic environment," said the organisation's chief executive Nicola McVeigh.
But Stephen Surphlis, property director of McAleer & Rushe, which owns the site, has vowed to return the 150-year-old heritage building to its "original splendour" while providing a high-quality office environment.