Belfast Telegraph

Botanic's Tropical Ravine nets major award after revamp

By Staff Reporter

A South Belfast park project which has transformed an overgrown corner of Botanic Gardens into a new and exciting visitor attraction has been named Project of the Year at the Northern Ireland Royal Institution Of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Awards 2018.

The Tropical Ravine, a unique and nationally significant Victorian building that houses a noteworthy collection of tropical plants, reopened to the public in April following a £3.8m upgrade.

Belfast City Council, with significant Heritage Lottery Fund support, working with Friends of Botanic, has restored it to its former glory, with a modern 21st century twist aimed at making it one of Belfast's popular tourist attractions.

Judges of the prestigious RICS Awards said the project had scored very highly when inspected and had been unanimously supported as Project of the Year.

The Tropical Ravine also won the Building Conservation category of the awards.

Belfast City Council invested £1.5m in the project, which is housed in a listed building in the gardens dating back to 1887.

A contribution to the revamp was made by the Friends of Botanic Gardens Group, with funding also provided from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The 131-year-old building has been restored with many of its original Victorian features reinstated or preserved.

The building features an open reception area on the ground floor and has been made more energy efficient to retain heat, ensuring plants have the right environment to grow.

The Tropical Ravine features new interactive and digital exhibits.

Belfast Lord Mayor Nuala McAllister officially reopened the attraction in April by unveiling a plaque, alongside the chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund Sir Peter Luff.

She said it was a "unique asset" for Belfast and had "no doubt that it will continue to attract new visitors".

The Tropical Ravine is the only feature of its kind left in Northern Ireland and one of only a handful on the island of Ireland.

The attraction, built by the park's head gardener, Charles McKimm, and his staff in the 1890s, contained some of the oldest seed plants around, as well as banana, cinnamon, bromeliad and orchids. Among its features were a plant-filled sunken glen, flowering vines and tree ferns.

The annual RICS Awards in Northern Ireland celebrate inspirational initiatives across the built environment.

The Project of the Year Award is presented to the project which is judged overall as an excellent example of best practice by professionals working in both the built and natural environments.

Projects from across Northern Ireland won awards at a ceremony hosted by television presenter Paul Clark at the La Mon Hotel.

Belfast Telegraph

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