Belfast Telegraph

Fire-ravaged arcade may rise from ashes

Plans to rebuild brighter and bolder

By Paul Dykes newsdesk@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

THE fire-ravaged North Street Arcade in downtown Belfast could yet rise brighter and bolder from its ashes.

THE fire-ravaged North Street Arcade in downtown Belfast could yet rise brighter and bolder from its ashes.

Heritage campaigners have called for the arcade to be rebuilt in its former glory and, given a "clean slate", and the site owner, William Ewart Properties, is keen to reappraise its current plans for construction of a £120m retail-led development.

Immediate concerns are for the safety of the now-skeletal structure, and its facades on Donegall Street and North Street.

But longer term, there is considerable potential for the site to become a 21st century replica of 1930s splendour.

Acheson Elliott, for the owners, said the plans before the city council at present included a complete refurbishment of the arcade to take it back to its original 1930s "materials palette".

"It was too early for detailed drawings, that would be done at the tender stage, but we were going to create a third entrance into Writers' Square," Mr Elliott said.

All shoppers using the proposed multi-storey car park within the development would have to walk to and from their cars via the arcade, adding to the passing trade for shopkeepers.

"We hadn't looked at who might occupy the shops," he said, "but the theme was for a mixed set of retailers in small shop units."

Modernisation would have been necessary to upgrade ventilation, electrical wiring, glazing and lighting, he said.

The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society is calling for the building's features to be replicated, if demolition was necessary.

Spokeswoman Rita Harkin said the premises had "enormous potential" and provided an ideal home for speciality shops and arts organisations.

"Existing records may enable accurate replication, if nothing of the original fabric can be salvaged," she said.

Design student Claire Moffett (22) from Lisburn also has plans for the site.

She has redesigned part of the arcade as her final project for her BA Hons in Design course at University of Ulster in York Street.

Her design amalgamates three units in the centre of the arcade to provide a community space incorporating a bookshop selling works by local authors and CDs by local bands, a local arts and crafts gallery, a bar/cafe and a venue for live music, recitals and readings.

"It would be the nucleus for the arcade, and encourage a sense of community in the arts area," she said.

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