£3.5m funding for Guildhall project
The renovation of the Guildhall in Londonderry as a focus for the 2013 UK City of Culture has been given a £3.5 million boost.
The council building will be transformed to include a visitor centre by next year after the Tourist Board and Department for Social Development (DSD) awarded the money.
The redevelopment will be a hub for information on the history, culture and heritage of the wider area, Tourism Minister Arlene Foster said.
"The Guildhall is one of the most significant buildings in the north west and it has huge potential as a visitor experience," she added.
"The completed project will see a big change in the emphasis of the building, from that of a mostly civic function, into a central hub and orientation point for visitors to Londonderry whilst creating a link between the Walled City to the Peace Bridge and the Ebrington Fort site."
There is expected to be a surge in visitor numbers during Derry's year as UK City of Culture in 2013. The Turner Prize for modern art will be awarded in the city - the first time it has left Great Britain`s shores. The All-Ireland Fleadh will also be held there.
DSD Minister Nelson McCausland said: "The works will not only protect and maintain this key civic building for future generations to enjoy, but will also reconfigure its use and maximise its accessibility for city residents and tourists."
The total cost of the restoration project is £9.2 million. The money is being provided by the Tourist Board, DSD, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Derry City Council.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood said the Northern Ireland Environment Agency's historic buildings grant-aid scheme goes a long way towards ensuring a sustainable future for much of the built heritage.
"Since my appointment I have been able to secure more money to this fund to protect and enhance our historic environment," he added. "Six of the top 10 visitor attractions are our built and natural heritage. I believe protecting and promoting our heritage can be done successfully and sustainably and doing so now in this time of recession and acute need is a political responsibility that must be grasped."