Grand Central: Belfast's new £30m hotel to stand tallest of them all
Belfast's most significant hotel project in a decade will dominate the city's skyline when it opens.
The £30m four-star, 200-bedroom Belfast Grand Central Hotel will transform 23-storey Windsor House in the city centre - the single biggest investment by family-run Hastings Hotels in the company's history.
Around 150 staff jobs will be created along with hundreds of others during construction at the Bedford Street landmark.
It's been named after one of the city's most famous former hotels, the Grand Central.
While Windsor House has been regarded by some over the years as an unsightly building, mock-ups of its glamorous new face show it will be anything but in the future.
Howard Hastings, managing director of Hastings, - which owns several luxury hotels including the Europa - said he hoped the Grand Central will be open by the end of 2017.
"From time-to-time we have had enormous projects," he said.
"When we bought the Europa, when we invested in the Merrion (in Dublin).
"I think this is another step-change project. It doesn't seem at this stage to have the same risk attached.
"When we bought the Europa the Troubles were still on, buying it slightly in the hope things were going to turn up.
"I think we can see in Belfast things are turning up and have turned up.
"Even though the quantum of spend in this project is absolutely enormous, there is a market ready for this."
As a result Ireland's tallest commercial building will become the island's tallest hotel - 23-storeys towering over the city centre, with views stretching right across Belfast.
The new project is being described as "in the upper end of the four-star market".
Guest rooms will make up the first 16 floors of the building, with floors 17 and 18 boasting serviced apartments and the top floors featuring office space.
Hastings announced it had bought Windsor House just last month in a deal worth £6.5 million.
Aside from the Europa on Great Victoria Street, Hastings also owns the city's Stormont Hotel; the Culloden in Cultra; the Everglades in Londonderry; Ballygally Castle on the Antrim coast, and the Slieve Donard in Newcastle, Co Down.
The original Grand Central on Belfast's Royal Avenue had a reputation as one of the finest hotels in Ireland.
It opened its doors in 1893, not far from where its namesake will soon tower over the city.
The name was suggested by Hastings Hotels founder Sir William Hastings.
He said: "The original Grand Central, which also boasted 200 bedrooms, was built in 1893 and was the thriving hub of Victorian Belfast as well as the finest hotel in Ireland. Winston Churchill, Al Jolson, Mario Lanza and The Beatles all enjoyed its luxurious hospitality."
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