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Cathedral Quarter renaming profoundly lacks empathy, campaigners say

The developer behind the regeneration project in Belfast has rebranded the area Tribeca.


The regeneration area is a 12-acre site beside St Anne’s Cathedral (PA)

The regeneration area is a 12-acre site beside St Anne’s Cathedral (PA)

The regeneration area is a 12-acre site beside St Anne’s Cathedral (PA)

Campaigners opposed to the renaming of Belfast’s historic Cathedral Quarter have said there is nothing authentic about the rebranding.

Save CQ is also calling for the property company behind the £500 million Tribeca regeneration project to change its plans for the city centre.

Vice-chairwoman of the voluntary group, Dr Agustina Martire, said: “The announcement of the Tribeca Belfast rebrand is a superficial naming exercise, a new way of window-dressing a development that is profoundly lacking in empathy with this authentic place.”

Dr Martire added: “There is nothing local or authentic about the Tribeca Belfast proposal or its brand – but the name is not the problem.”

The Queen’s University architecture lecturer made the remarks in an address to Belfast City Council on Monday evening ahead of a motion on the controversial plans.

A motion calling upon Castlebrooke Investments to drop the Tribeca branding for their city centre regeneration scheme has been proposed by Councillor Lee Reynolds.

Castlebrooke plans to build 1.5 million-square-foot of residential, office, retail and hospitality units on the 12-acre site beside St Anne’s Cathedral.

The company unveiled the name of the project as Tribeca Belfast last November. The marketing campaign included an online video voiced by actor Jamie Dornan.

Castlebrooke said the name aimed to reflect the development’s location as the ‘triangle beside the Cathedral’.

The first phase of the development is due to be completed by 2021.

Dr Martire said eight art venues and organisations would be displaced by the plans in their current format.

She added that the developer was focusing on providing additional retail units at a time when the city had a retail vacancy rate of 17%.

Councillors also heard an address from Conor Shields of Save CQ, who recited a poem of protest he wrote after the rebranding was announced.

“We are not Tribeca – that name will not last. We are CQ, Cathedral Quarter, the historic heart of Belfast,” he read.

The Belfast native, who was one of the co-founders of the Cathedral Quarter Trust, said it was the “insult and the injury” of the marketing video that prompted his poetic response, which he uploaded online.

It was viewed by 30,000 people in just two days. Since then, it has been watched 68,000 times.

During the debate Mr Reynolds said the aim of the motion was not to oppose investment but to debate the branding.

Mr Reynolds said there was no authenticity in the name that was chosen.

“It’s someone trying to shoehorn something to fit that doesn’t work,” he said.

“The aim may have been to represent Belfast soul but the proposal of Tribeca for Belfast is simply soulless. We’re not New York, we’re Belfast.”

Sian O’Neill of the Alliance Party said: “This is a really opportune moment to define who we are and show the world that we are proud of who we are. It’s a time to use our history to our advantage.”

She added that the area was one of the most vibrant in the city and many people were passionate about it.

“It is a bit of an affront that suggests we’re just not good enough, that we have the name of a place that does not belong to us,” she said.

The UUP’s Alderman Chris McGimpsey said he would not support the motion as he believed the name was “logical” and a “sensible option”.

“We were the basket case of Europe and we’re not any more. And we need to have the courage of our own convictions,” he said.

“Belfast is a vibrant, proud, attractive city. It takes a vibrant, attractive city to be able to throw away the comfort blanket… and say we can take our place amongst the other cities in the world.

“Ironically, by being able to choose the name Tribeca, which is obviously connected to New York City, we’re actually showing that.”

UUP councillor Jeffrey Dudgeon endorsed his party colleague’s viewpoint and said he also would not support the motion.