Heritage Ireland

Project gives Belfast’s built heritage a new lease of life

A Grade B listed former primary school is being transformed into an impressive £5 million residential development – comprising 30 stylish apartments for social housing – in a challenging project at Mersey Street, Belfast.

Now nearing completion, the project is being carried out for Connswater Homes by Main Contractors Connolly Fee, and will result in the creation of 28 two-bedroom apartments and two one-bedroom apartments.

The project has presented a number of challenges: the entire site is grade B listed and is located in one of the development control zones in relation to the George Best Belfast City Airport.

The association and its design team liaised with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA—Historic Buildings) and the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society  in order to develop a sensitive design solution that resulted in minimal intervention to the historic character and fabric, and ensured that all the main elevations remained intact.

The design of the project allows most of the old classrooms to be directly converted into apartments with minimal internal reconfiguration. Agreement with NIEA Historic Buildings allowed the development of the existing roof space of the building to accommodate apartment bedrooms on a mezzanine level, which fronts into an internal courtyard, thus allowing the original historical façade to be retained.

The apartments have been designed with advice from the PSNI Crime Prevention Design Advisor to ensure that residents feel safe and secure. All apartments are built to Eco Homes specification with high levels of energy efficiency.

Given the nature of the building, many of the other original features have been retained – this includes the assembly hall, which was converted to be used both to provide offices for Connswater Homes and as a community space.

The works include: the replacement of the windows in the style of the originals, the refurbishment of the original slate roof, the installation of all new building services and apartment fixtures and fittings, and complete redecoration.

External works include the creation of a new road to serve the building, together with the creation of two parking bays and the extensive landscaping of the building’s courtyard to provide an attractive communal space.

The scheme is excellent news for the people of East Belfast – an area of high housing need – and will deliver a housing solution that will give this part of Belfast’s built heritage a new lease of life.

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