Former Belfast boys’ home Kincora is to be demolished and the site turned into apartments in a £1.8m project, Business Telegraph can reveal.
Hagan Homes has lodged plans for nine apartments but said it’s “very aware of the sensitivities” surrounding the Upper Newtownards Road building.
Three members of staff were convicted in 1981 of sexual abuse of boys in the home though claims of state collusion were rejected by the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry.
The building had been turned into offices though a former owner did not proceed with his plans to build apartments.
Jim Burke, Hagan Homes’ director of sales and acquisitions, said: “In line with Hagan Homes ambitious 20-year plan to build 2000 new homes, invest over £300m and create hundreds of jobs in the construction sector, the company purchased the Kincora site in east Belfast in the summer of 2019.
“Hagan Homes is very aware of the sensitivities associated with the location and is seeking planning permission to transform the site by demolishing the existing building and investing approximately £1.8m in creating a modern, contemporary development... of two-bedroom residential apartments,” Mr Burke added.
The plans have now been lodged with Belfast City Council.
Kincora Boys' Home was set up in 1958 to provide full-time accommodation for teenage boys but closed in 1980 following the exposure of sexual abuse by staff.
The scandal shocked Northern Ireland when it emerged in 1980 that at least 29 boys were sexually abused at the care home.
Three senior staff members - former housemaster William McGrath, Joseph Mains and William Semple - were jailed in 1981 for abusing 11 boys.
But there have also been allegations of state collusion in the abuse, and of the involvement of high-ranking establishment figures.
Kincora Boys' Home was examined in the Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry in 2017. The inquiry heard that boys who'd just arrived to the home would be warned about McGrath.
Chairman, the late Sir Anthony Hart, said sexual abuse had taken place at the home though the inquiry dismissed claims that senior politicians, civil servants and businessmen were complicit in a paedophile ring. Sir Anthony said: "It was not a homosexual brothel, nor was it used by any of the security agencies as a honey pot to entrap, blackmail or otherwise exploit homosexuals."
He added: "It is now time to finally lay these unfounded myths to rest."
At least 19 files directly related to the home are 'closed' to the public, and in one case the order remains in place until 2085 at the earliest.
Around a dozen are closed - either fully or partially - until the mid-2060s and beyond.
The building on Upper Newtownards Road was put on the market in August 2018 for £375,000. Its owner at the time, Leslie Black, had renamed it Linden House and used it as offices.
His company had plans to refurbish the building but in 2015, then First Minister Peter Robinson called for it to be "razed," which Mr Black said meant he had to abandon his plan. He instead applied for planning application for 12 apartments on the site. But that development did not go ahead.