A Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of almost £5m has underpinned the development of a luxury Belfast hotel — on the site where the plans for the Titanic were produced.
The Harland & Wolff headquarters building and drawing offices on Belfast’s Queen’s Island were abandoned in 1989 and have become so neglected they are now considered “at risk”.
It was in the buildings’ vast offices that engineers and draughtsmen created and drew up the designs for more than 1,000 ships including all of the White Star Lines Olympic class liners, the Olympic, Britannic and the ill-fated RMS Titanic. The cruiser HMS Belfast, now moored on the Thames as a museum ship, was also designed and built in its namesake city.
Now the Titanic Foundation and the Titanic Quarter regeneration project have joined forces to develop a four-star, 84-bedroom hotel on the site. “We have been working on this project for more than two years,” explained the foundation’s chief executive officer, Kerrie Sweeney.
“It has been a long process, but worth it. With the HLF’s support we will safeguard the drawing offices for future generations and unlock the commercial potential of the entire building as a boutique hotel with heritage at its core.
“This is a truly unique and authentic project for Belfast that could not have happened without the support from Heritage Enterprise Scheme,” she added.
The lottery cash will specifically be used to develop the two historical drawing offices as spaces for public use. Both partners have also agreed the hotel design should also focus on telling the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage by using as many the original rooms as possible — the Harland & Wolff board room, telephony room and entrance lobby.
Paul Mullan is head of HLF Northern Ireland. “This is an exciting project that will see one of Belfast’s most historic buildings reborn as a major tourist destination,” he said.
“This, like many of the city’s historic buildings, has incredible potential to act as a driver of regeneration and economic growth.
“With Heritage Enterprise, HLF is helping local businesses tap into that potential by covering the high costs of restoring vacant and underused heritage buildings and making them fit-for-purpose as commercial, and therefore sustainable, spaces.”
The 185-acre Titanic Quarter occupies a large part of what was once the Harland & Wolff shipyard. The waterfront regeneration project already encompasses film studios, education facilities, residential apartments, a riverside entertainment district and the new £30m headquarters of the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.