Belfast Telegraph

Queen's students unveil fresh ideas for future of Belfast's Royal Exchange

By David Young

Architecture students from Queen's University in Belfast last night unveiled fresh ideas for the future of the massive Royal Exchange site in Belfast's city centre.

The development, which takes in North Street and Lower Donegall Street, has faced difficulties in getting under way - and as time passes, the existing buildings on the site, some of them of historic interest, are beginning to deteriorate.

Critics of the planned scheme, such as the Save Cathedral Quarter campaign group, say the huge retail, office and residential development will damage the character of the historic Cathedral Quarter. Ideas put forward by the students at a Save Cathedral Quarter fundraising event last night included:

  • to create an alternative cinema on North Street, using the old Braddell's building as an archive;
  • to build a housing project which uses the two buildings beside the former North Street arcade, featuring courtyards between the two existing buildings,
  • to create an arts centre in the space behind the historic Rosemary Presbyterian Church, where there is now just a car park; and
  • to build a housing and a market space, tying together North Street with Writer's Square, incorporating apartments with generous balconies.

Queen's academic Dr Agustina Martire said she and her students wanted to ignite a fresh public conversation about the kinds of alternative uses that the Royal Exchange sites could be used for.

"Students analysed North Street and Lower Donegall Street, to understand their present conditions and their potential future use," she said.

"We then challenged architecture students to produce proposals for the area that consider and enhance the diversity, vibrancy and spatial quality of the streets.

"We're trying to engage the public and the planning authorities to have a new conversation about this area's future."

Funds raised from last night's Black Box event will go towards costing the students' proposals.

Belfast Telegraph

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