Notorious former UDA lair will be demolished to make way for 38 flats
One of Belfast's most infamous pubs has been earmarked for demolition ahead of a £1.75m development that will see 38 new apartments built on the site.
The Bunch of Grapes on the Beersbridge Road was for many years synonymous with the UDA.
Once owned by so-called 'brigadier' Jim Gray, the pub was the scene of the murder of former UDA leader Jim Craig, who was executed by his own organisation in 1988.
Loyalist Geordie Legge was also tortured and murdered inside the bar in 2001.
A UDA memorial still sits next to the rear of the old pub.
More recently, the bar was rebranded as the Ibrox Bar, then again to the Eye-brox Bar, but it fell into disrepair and was effectively repossessed in 2013.
It was eventually sold to Empire Holdings Ltd in 2015.
On Monday the company was granted planning approval to demolish the vacant bar along with another adjoining derelict building at 70-72 Beersbridge Road to make way for a major new mixed-use development. The new building will also extend over an adjacent brownfield site, which was most recently used as a community garden.
The complete project involves 33 single-bedroom apartments, five two-bed apartments and two retail units, including an off-licence.
The development has been designed by Belfast architectural firm C60 Ltd.
Director at the firm Alan Ritchie said despite the building's history, the project represented "a fantastic opportunity" due to the high demand for residential accommodation on the periphery of the city centre. "We have other clients who will happily buy this off the developer in so much that they are looking for things that are slightly less risk and have planning in place."
He said a recent apartment project in nearby Templemore Avenue had sold extremely well.
"There is a lot of activity among people who are looking to get sites like this with planning permission, who will then develop it," Mr Ritchie added.
While he acknowledged that the former pub had an unpleasant reputation, he insisted the new development represented an attractive prospect for young professionals. "You're in walking distance of the city centre," he said.
"Some people want that proximity to walk into town - they don't want to own a car. These units are in high demand."
The architect said the project had been warmly welcomed by local elected representatives.
"They want the area to be brought up and they want the area to improve," he explained.
"Seeing that people are prepared to invest £1.75m into their area, it makes them feel that something is happening.
"I think this development has the potential to be a fantastic catalyst for that area."