Victoria Square apartment repairs to cost hundreds of thousands after steel girder appeared through wall
Repairs to the luxury Belfast Victoria Square apartments are to take at least five months, costing hundreds of thousands of pounds and with residents footing the initial costs.
It's understood the problem first became evident when a steel girder appeared through a wall in two apartments.
Residents were forced to pack their bags and evacuate the city centre on Wednesday after "serious structural issues" were uncovered in a structural column.
In all 91 apartments are affected with hundreds of residents affected. Another 15 apartments at the other side of the complex are not affected and the shopping centre remains open for business as usual.
The Health and Safety Executive has been informed, as has Belfast City Council's building control department. The shopping centre said it was working with the managing agents to assist in their investigation.
In February evidence of the problem first emerged in two apartments. At that point 17 homes were evacuated and investigations begun on the rest of the structure to determine the extent of the issue. On Wednesday engineers recommended all the apartments be evacuated and residents informed within hours of that decision.
Some residents however, have decided not to leave their homes.
In a statement the management company said: "The estimated cost of the repairs is significant given the technical nature of the work involved. It is estimated that the repair work will take approximately 20 weeks and the management company is working towards having works commence on site as soon as possible.
"The repair work will involve a period of investigation to determine the specific cause of the damage and the parties responsible."
It is understood the repairs will run into the hundreds of thousands of pounds. Apartment owners are shareholders in the management company and therefore liable for the costs. The BBC reported they have each been asked for a £10,000 contribution to the costs.
However, depending on what the cause of the problem is, the owners could recover their costs at a later stage from the person or organisation responsible.
The management company continued: "It is regrettable that this situation will cause inconvenience to the residents of the apartments and the management company is doing all it can to resolve the matter as quickly as possible. However, the absolute priority is to protect the structure of the building and ensure the safety of its residents.
"In order for evacuated residents to return to the building as soon as possible, it will necessary for the management company to apply its funds in the first instance towards the required repairs. The management company is therefore not in a position to make any assurances in relation to costs incurred by the evacuated residents for alternative accommodation.
"It is possible that some residents may be able to return to their apartments sooner the projected date for completion of the repair works but this cannot be confirmed at this point in time. In the meantime, the management company and its agent will continue to liaise directly with apartment owners affected by the required evacuation."
The first residents moved into the apartments in 2008 on completion of the £400million residential, retail and leisure development.
Belfast Telegraph Digital