Ulster Business

| 10.2°C Belfast

Belfast's George Best Hotel goes into administration


Lawrence Kenwright outside the yet to open George Best Hotel

Lawrence Kenwright outside the yet to open George Best Hotel

Lawrence Kenwright outside the yet to open George Best Hotel

Belfast's unfinished George Best Hotel has gone into administration, it has emerged.

Matthew Ingram and Michael Lennon of Duff & Phelps have been appointed as joint administrators to the development.

It's a long-delayed scheme which is part of the wider Signature Living Group, which is run by Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright.

Michael Lennon, Duff & Phelps, said: “The renovation of the Hotel is in the latter stages of completion and is due to be launched later this year. In order to protect its investment and provide a platform from which the hotel can be completed, Lyell Trading Limited have taken steps to appoint the joint administrators.

“We recognise the value of the George Best Hotel as a finished development and trading hotel. In so far as it is possible, advance bookings and reservations remain unaffected. We will be exploring all options with the current funders to maximise its value and ultimately the return to creditors.

“Like Signature Shankly Limited, we are aware that there are a number of bedroom investors that have paid deposits, we will be contacting all investors at the earliest opportunity to confirm our appointment and gather further information.”

Signature Living was given approval to turn the listed Scottish Mutual Building on Donegall Square into the George Best Hotel, earlier this year.

The original work had been carried out under previously approved planning permission. A revised plan was then approved for the 63-bedroom scheme.

Outstanding issues with the plans include the need for further details about a proposed new fire escape and a requirement for the window frames to be painted a darker colour than the white suggested in the current plans.

Last year Liverpool developer Lawrence Kenwright told Ulster Business he had spent a total of £10.5m so far on turning the Scottish Mutual Building on Bedford Street into the George Best Hotel.

But work stopped on the scheme last year amid a probe over concerns over "unauthorised works" at the listed building.

At the time he said he may hold on to the Crumlin Road courthouse - which was up for sale - to develop into a new hotel, while his War Memorial Building - also the site of a proposed hotel - was under offer.

In 2018, Mr Kenwright let a team of staff go at the hotel after the opening date had been pushed back further and further.

In November that year, Belfast City Council revealed that it has opened an enforcement investigation in relation to the building.

It came after the Department for Communities' Historic Environment Division (HED) raised concerns over "unauthorised works" at the high-profile development.

Signature Living has been contacted for comment.