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‘Belfast is not New York’... plan to call city centre project ‘Tribeca’ met with derision



An artist’s impression of Belfast’s Tribeca

An artist’s impression of Belfast’s Tribeca

New York’s famous district of Tribeca

New York’s famous district of Tribeca

Getty Images

Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey

Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey


An artist’s impression of Belfast’s Tribeca

A new £500m development planned for Belfast city centre has been widely mocked after its new name was copied from an existing well-known neighbourhood in New York.

Tribeca Belfast has been unveiled as the official title by Castlebrooke Investments for its 12-acre retail and office regeneration project beside St Anne's Cathedral.

The scheme, which has already been given the green light for its first phase, will see the creation of 1,500,00 sq ft of residential space, office units as well as retail and hospitality elements.

The project formerly known as Royal Exchange is Belfast's single largest regeneration scheme. It borders Royal Avenue, Donegall Street, Lower Garfield Street and Rosemary Street.

TriBeCa is a trendy neighbourhood in Lower Manhattan, which is an abbreviation of 'triangle below the canal'. It is one of the most expensive places to live in Manhattan.

Within hours of the announcement being made, #TribecaBelfast was trending on Twitter.

Outlining how they came up with the name Tribeca Belfast, Castlebrooke revealed it relates to the location being at the heart of the city site - the 'triangle beside the cathedral'.

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Elaborating further they said Tribeca Belfast "reflects the geography of the site, and links our brand of 'International Heart, Belfast Soul'."

Belfast Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey was one of a number of high-profile people to criticise the New York link.

"I'm sorry but this is Belfast not New York. We are proud of our city, its people, its places names and its heritage, that's what gives Belfast it's soul!" she tweeted.

Belfast Telegraph restaurant critic Joris Minne agreed with her, adding: "We have far more heritage to determine our own place names!"

Patrick Corrigan, head of Amnesty International NI, branded it "meaningless" and an attempt to transplant a "faux identity" from the Big Apple.

"Belfast is not New York. And doesn't need to pretend it is. Belfast is unique, idiosyncratic, frustrating, amazing," he said.

Another tweeter playfully made an alternative suggestion: "Tribeca? 'TrayBakeA' would be my localised suggestion."

Others were equally dismissive, claiming that it was too derivative of its NY namesake.

"Clone a concept; clone a look; clone a name," said one person, while another Twitter user decried that it "lacks imagination".

This latest development has also attracted fresh ire from the Save CQ (Cathedral Quarter) campaign, who believe the scheme ignores Belfast's built heritage.

Save CQ's Rebekah McCabe said that Tribeca Belfast was "nothing more than a superficial branding exercise" and an attempt to "re-dress" a scheme that "lacks coherence and empathy" with its existing surroundings.

Ms McCabe also stressed that Save CQ's objections to the scheme "still stand", including plans to demolish a "series of non-listed heritage buildings" as well as its concerns over the "displacement of a thriving community of local artists and traders".

Retailer John Lewis had previously been tipped to be the project's flagship store.

But Estelle Hunt, director of Castlebrooke Investments said the scheme has now moved away from being "retail-led" due to "changes in the market".

"We have refocused... and increased the office and residential offering, placing the emphasis on Belfast as one of the most desirable places in the world to live and work," she said. "In due course we will be engaging with the people of Belfast to discuss our detailed proposals for the site."

The director also defended the name choice, saying a project of this scale in Belfast in an important location will "always attract a lot of debate".

"We believe (Tribeca Belfast) reflects the aspirations of the city and feel this will place Belfast in the strongest position for a sustainable and successful future," she said.