Belfast Telegraph

Will Belfast's Floral Hall bloom once more?

 

By Andrew Madden

Property developer Lawrence Kenwright - the man behind four new hotels coming to Belfast - has announced his intentions to redevelop the city's iconic Floral Hall.

Mr Kenwright, founder and chairman of Signature Living, stated his desire to restore the building during a speech at the MIPIM international property conference in Cannes.

The Liverpudlian businessman wants to redevelop the hall as "a leading entertainment, conference and wedding venue" in the city.

Situated within the grounds of Belfast Zoo, the Floral Hall was built in the mid-1930s and was one of Belfast's foremost entertainment venues for over 35 years - as a dance hall, and later as a venue for bands such as Pink Floyd and for roller discos.

Many couples now in their twilight years in the Belfast area would have met at dances and events held in the hall.

Now owned by Belfast City Council, the venue has been closed to the public since the 1970s. It is estimated that an investment of around £5m would be required to restore it.

Speaking to an audience of investors, developers and occupiers at MIPIM, Mr Kenwright spoke of his ambitions to restore the "gem in Belfast's social and cultural history to its former glory".

"I immediately fell in love with the Floral Hall and its rich history as 'The Ballroom of Romance' in Belfast when I first saw it several months ago," he said.

"That so many love stories originate there is very special and, understandably, there is clearly a huge amount of affection for the building within the Belfast and wider Northern Ireland community.

"Today at MIPIM, I am publicly stating my desire to acquire the Floral Hall from Belfast City Council and to invest in bringing it back to use as a unique venue for future generations to enjoy in the way that their parents, grandparents and even great-parents did for so many years in its heyday.

"This is what Signature Living does best - sympathetically restoring precious, heritage buildings and simply acting as their custodian, once again giving them a place in culture and tourism for the enjoyment of local people and tourists."

Gerry Millar, director of property and projects at Belfast City Council, said that while they have not yet entered into formal discussions about the Floral Hall with any investor or developer, any sale would have to first go through the proper channels.

"However, the council is keen to see Floral Hall restored and is open to receiving proposals from any party interested in exploring this opportunity further," he added.

Liverpool-headquartered Signature Living is behind four other major hotels coming to Belfast in the coming years and months.

These include the new George Best Hotel in Belfast's Scottish Mutual Building and the new Lanyon Hotel in the Crumlin Road Courthouse.

Belfast Telegraph

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