First of developer's hotels to open doors by Christmas
Liverpool property developer Lawrence Kenwright has said that he is confident he will open two new hotels in Belfast by the end of this year.
The director of Signature Living, which owns five hotels in Liverpool, said he's still committed to plans which were revealed earlier this year to transform the derelict Floral Hall dance hall building on Cave Hill in Belfast into a new hotel and venue.
He also said that he will replicate a co-working project he owns in Merseyside, which hosts 70 different companies, in Belfast.
However, he said he has yet to secure a firm location for the co-working site.
Mr Kenwright is currently pressing ahead with three major hotel projects based around listed buildings in the city, including the George Best Hotel behind Belfast City Hall.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Kenwright said he is confident that he will have the George Best Hotel, in the listed Scottish Mutual Building, open by the end of the November.
The family of the football legend have given their consent for a statue, which will be on top of the new city centre hotel.
"I cannot think of a more fitting tribute than to have a statue of this iconic footballer erected on the rooftop of this magnificent building," Mr Kenwright said.
And he also intends to open a second hotel on Waring Street before Christmas. Work is yet to start on the Cathedral Quarter Waring Hotel, in the former War Memorial museum.
But it could see a phased opening by the end of the year.
Planning approval has already been granted for the main building, while a second application is seeking to build a new extension to the rear.
A third hotel in the former Crumlin Road Courthouse - to be named the Lanyon Hotel - remains a longer-term project.
Mr Kenwright outlined his plans to replicate the successful model of his Merseyside hotels in Northern Ireland.
Describing the English city as "the perfect model" for Belfast, he said his five venues are set up for different types of guests.
In Liverpool he said two were "party hotels", while the Shankly Hotel, and the soon to be opened Dixie Dean Hotel, cater for football fans. His James Street hotel, set in White Star Line's former headquarters, is aimed at tourists with its Titanic-based theme.
In the same vein, he said the George Best Hotel in Belfast will attract sports fans and tourists, while Waring Street would be "a party hotel".
He said Crumlin Road Courthouse's background was likely to attract history lovers.
The hotelier said "clever" digital marketing had helped drive five million hits to the websites of his Liverpool hotels last year.
He said given the online nature of the market, the traffic had helped book his hotels six months in advance and he intends to deploy the same strategy in Belfast.
Mr Kenwright added around 80% of his developments have been in listed buildings.
"We specialise in listed buildings. There's a gap in the marketplace, so we go where other developers fear to tread," he said.
Signature recently completed the £42m redevelopment of the Exchange Hotel in Cardiff, another listed building.
The hotelier also confirmed he is in talks with a Belfast-based businessman to help him run the bar and restaurant end of his business here.