Former restaurant to get new lease of life as temporary Queen's University students' union
A former restaurant in south Belfast is getting a new lease of life - as a temporary students' union.
The property on the Lisburn Road was previously home to Fat Buddha, Cipriani pizzeria and later SetteSoli.
Cipriani was forced to rebrand after legal action by a Venice hotel of the same name.
Queen's University has now bought the building with a view to turning it into a temporary students' union and music venue until their new student centre on University Road is completed in 2021.
The university's current students' union is more than 50 years old and was originally designed for a student population of 5,000 people.
Now there are around 24,000 students on the campus and a new facility has been mooted for several years to serve the modern student population.
According to plans filed with Belfast City Council this week, the ground floor and first floor of the former restaurant will be redeveloped as a "students' union bar and music venue". Part of the second floor of the building, which currently houses offices, will be made into a snooker hall.
Food critic Joris Minne said the site "never worked" as a restaurant location and he hoped the new students' union will provide a boost for the area, even if only on a temporary basis.
"I was in the building when it was the Fat Buddha, Cipriani and more latterly SetteSoli. It's a striking modern space spread over many levels and it's great news for this end of the Lisburn Road, which doesn't enjoy the same reputation as the other end," he said. "It never worked as a restaurant site so something with a distinct future like a students' union will add much needed life and vigour to the area."
Currently, there are several major student accommodation buildings being developed or which have recently opened across Belfast. But the progress of some may be delayed due to complications with the building of the new Ulster University campus, which could be delayed until as late as 2022.
Since Belfast City Council was given control of planning matters in April 2015, it has granted approval to plans which will see around 5,500 student beds opened in the city over the next few years.
On York Street, next to the new Ulster University campus, there is work under way to construct an 11-storey building to house 307 student rooms.
McAleer and Rushe is developing a massive 740-bedroom student complex on a vacant site on College Avenue and, in September last year, Botanic Studios on the Dublin Road was opened, providing 156 private studio apartments over seven floors.