New £100m tourism project will tell the stories of Belfast

·3-min read
Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl (centre), Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council and chair of the Belfast Region City Deal Executive Board, and Richard Williams, chief executive of NI Screen, at the Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue (Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye/PA)
Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl (centre), Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council and chair of the Belfast Region City Deal Executive Board, and Richard Williams, chief executive of NI Screen, at the Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue (Kelvin Boyes /Press Eye/PA)

A new £100 million tourism attraction is to be created in the heart of Belfast city centre, it has been announced.

The Belfast Stories development is one of seven tourism and regeneration projects included in the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD), which was unveiled this week.

Due to open in 2028, elements of the new visitor attraction will be housed in the art deco former Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue, which has been acquired by Belfast City Council for the project, along with the surrounding 4,000 sq m site.

The council said the listed building will be restored and the space around it developed as part of the regeneration project that will tell the stories of Belfast through a new interactive visitor experience.

It will also include a new state-of-the-art multi-screen cultural film centre and public spaces for events and ongoing programming.

Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of our city through a variety of media and immersive experiences

Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl

Lord Mayor of Belfast Kate Nicholl said the announcement marked a “significant moment” for the city and its future.

“This is hugely exciting news for the city and I think today’s announcement marks a significant moment in our progress as a city, and the journey we have been on for the last number of years to tell the story of Belfast on a global stage,” she said.

“Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of our city through a variety of media and immersive experiences.

“It will drive culture-led regeneration across the city, giving us the opportunity to put the people of Belfast and their stories at its heart.

“It’s an investment, not just in monetary terms, but in our people and the generations to come, and an important investment in our heritage and in our future.

“This is a hugely positive news story for the city and will reap benefits not just for our tourism sector, but in the creation of new jobs and regenerating communities.

“The project is not just about the city centre, however – we will also be connecting it to the development of neighbourhood tourism.”

Options for renewable energy solutions for the project, including the feasibility of geothermal energy sources, are currently being explored.

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A green rooftop urban park is also being considered as part of the early project plans, offering panoramic views across the city.

Richard Williams chief executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “The creativity on these shores cannot be overstated; we are a veritable powerhouse, and the Belfast Stories project will keep that momentum going in the right direction.”

Kathryn Thomson, chair of Visit Belfast, added: “This investment in our tourism offering will shine another positive light on Belfast as an exciting visitor destination.

“As well as having the potential to transform another area of Belfast, it will have a positive ripple effect across the entire region and the island as a whole, supporting tourism recovery and acting as a catalyst for inclusive growth through the creation of new and better jobs.”

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