New £500m Tribeca project 'will push Belfast to the forefront of European cities'
A £500m project that is set to change the make-up of Belfast city centre has been named Tribeca Belfast.
The Castlebrooke Investments regeneration scheme - a 12-acre site beside St Anne's Cathedral and bordering Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, Lower Garfield Street and Rosemary Street - will include 1,500,000 sq ft of residential space, office units as well as retail and hospitality elements.
It will also include a "sensitive refurbishment" to protect and preserve a listed building on Lower Garfield Street - branded as Garfield & North.
An acronym that is also used for a neighbourhood in New York City, Tribeca reflects a description of the development as the 'triangle beside the cathedral'.
It is the largest single regeneration project in Belfast city centre and formerly went by the name of Royal Exchange.
At a media briefing last night, the London-based Castlebrooke said Tribeca will transform Belfast to "become more international". Its chief executive, Neil Young, said the scheme will protect the vitality of the centre and will reformulate a currently retail-led city that is set for "savage closures". He said: "We are going into uncharted territory. Originally this site had space for a department store, but there has been a radical change in retailing and we had to question that. We only need to look at Black Friday, it was 8% down on last year and I think that's only the beginning for the retail world, so we are coming up with something sustainable and we are looking at the wider world to do that.
"Our aim is to transform the city centre through comprehensive regeneration, putting Belfast at the forefront of British and European cities.
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"On completion, the scheme will create a new urban realm that blends the area's history with state-of-the-art-design. It will provide 1,500,000 sq ft of best in class mixed-use space."
Mr Young said the firm was attracted to the Belfast site because it had previous planning permission that "we are striving to modernise". He added: "We want people to know that the development is moving forward. We have already invested £50m of cash in site assembly, planning and professional fees and we plan further major investment."
The first phase of Tribeca will be two Grade A office buildings covering 180,000 sq ft. One of those buildings will be designed to "international headquarter office standards".
The first phase will also include 24 apartments and ground floor retail and hospitality units to encourage city centre living.
The site will go live in the New Year. Mr Young said it was "entirely probable" that the first phase could be completed in 2021, adding: "There is a lot of uncertainty with the EU and things could massively change.
"We could have a general election soon, no one knows, so I would say we are being not cautious - but sensible."
He said detail on subsequent phases will come later, when new planning applications are made in the New Year.
Conservation campaigners expressed concerns over a previous version of the company's plans.
Save CQ has said while it accepts the area needs investment, any development must "complement, enhance and integrate" with the area.
Estelle Hunt, director of Castlebrooke, said the scheme has been long overdue.
She said: "Tribeca Belfast will be an iconic development in the heart of the city which will encourage people to enjoy it as an outstanding place to live and work."