Belfast Telegraph

Plans for listed building in Belfast include new basement restaurant

A company formed by ship fit-out giant MJM Marine has revealed plans to turn the neglected basement of a
A company formed by ship fit-out giant MJM Marine has revealed plans to turn the neglected basement of a "landmark" listed building into a restaurant. (stock photo)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A company formed by ship fit-out giant MJM Marine has revealed plans to turn the neglected basement of a "landmark" listed building into a restaurant.

MJM Pearl has said its redevelopment of Pearl Assurance House at Donegall Square in Belfast would bring 50 new jobs to the site and celebrate the "historic character" of the building, which was completed in 1902.

Tenants at the five-storey building include retailer Mace. However, a restaurant unit on the ground floor formerly occupied by Pearl's is now empty.

A design and access statement from RMI Architects has given more detail of the project, including the plans to turn an unused basement into a restaurant.

It describes the basement as having original features such as metal vaults, safe doors, gated railings, wood panelling and exposed steel beams and columns.

RMI said: "Our proposal is to open this space to the public by providing an attractive new basement restaurant which utilises and celebrates the historic character and fabric of the space as much as possible."

Disabled access to the basement would be provided through using the main entrance, instead of the current access to the basement from the ground floor cafe.

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It adds: "The existing access to the offices has three steps up to the reception level.

"We propose to remove the three steps to create a level access from the street and then provide a new stair and platform lift to the restaurant below."

The Newry company hopes to extend the offices on the first, second, third and fourth floors of the building, while it also plans to turn the fifth floor offices into a loft-style apartment with a roof garden.

The architect's statement describes the building as a "landmark structure dominating the corner site of Donegall Square East and Chichester Street, and sits adjacent to many other prominent listed buildings including the City Hall, former Water Office, Robinson Cleaver and Imperial House".

The application states that the number of staff using the building every day would grow from 175 to 225 as part of the plans.

The plans for refurbishing the offices on the first to fourth floors would involve stripping back carpets, suspended ceilings and dry-lined walls to expose the building's "historic fabric".

"The present offices are deficient in several respects and are in major need of upgrading to meet modern standards and to better celebrate the heritage of the building," the statement said.

MJM, which is developing property in addition to its core ship-fit out work, is also redeveloping Clarence Chambers, again situated in the city centre next to City Hall.

Belfast Telegraph

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