In August Farrans Construction was awarded a £51 million contract to build a new 480 metre deep-water berth and quay wall in the Port of Belfast. This move – the latest in series of large-scale initiatives to redevelop the harbour in preparation for an economic boom – will specifically enable the port to accommodate the largest ships.
A statement from Farrans said that the firm are “delighted to be associated with the Belfast Harbour Commissioners and look forward to working with them on this prestigious Project in the Port of Belfast.”
This scheme is just one of several that are currently being implemented by the Board who run the harbour. In their 2011-2013 Corporate Plan, they pledged to invest £92 million in capital projects over the three years in order to ensure that the port offers ‘leading edge marine and estate facilities’.
Forming 20% of the city, Belfast Harbour’s 2000 acre estate is a prime location for investment. It is part of a fast-growing city that offers world-class educational, cultural and commercial opportunities just a short drive from areas of outstanding natural beauty. Developments are taking place across a wide range of sectors – from wind energy projects to investments in the arts – with aims of benefiting the local community and the whole of Ireland.
Belfast Harbour’s role in Irish history cannot be ignored, and 400 years since its establishment, one scheme in the wider regeneration of the port taps into maritime history, preserving heritage for generations to come. Currently under construction, the Titanic Signature Building will be a museum celebrating boat-building in Ireland and, of course, telling the story of the infamous RMS Titanic. Designed by Todd Architects and Planning in collaboration with Civic Arts, the structure pays homage to the recognisable shape of the liner’s prows, jutting out on all four sides of the central column of the building. Likely to become a major tourist and educational hotspot, it is intended that the building will open in 2012, ahead of the 100th anniversary of the ship leaving Belfast.
The museum will form the centrepiece for the Titanic Quarter, a 185 acre district on the banks of the lagan, which is now a mixed-use redevelopment. There is space for 7,500 apartments, and 900,000 square metres of commercial, education and leisure space. It is operated by Belfast Harbour, in a Landlord-Tenant agreement with the Harcourt group.
Another venture by Belfast Harbour is the 90-acre Sydenham Business Park, a low-rise business park with many units already occupied by world-famous names such as Virgin Media and Fujitsu. The business park is ideally located for the George Belfast City Airport and motorway network, and the final 20 acres which are yet to be developed are likely to be in high demand.
The third region of the harbour for which there are specific plans regarding regeneration, is the area known as City Quays, where there will be £250 million mixed-use development. This will mainly be a commercial, office-led development, but residential, retail and leisure space will also be constructed. One of the very first works in the pipeline is the construction of a 4* hotel along the waterfront of the River Lagan.
City Quays is being branded as a ‘leading edge sustainable development’, with the focus on both the environmental credentials of the buildings themselves and the creation of a community which will function in the long-term, benefitting from suitable transport links.
‘Long-term’ is a crucial phrase in the regeneration of the harbour and the wider city of Belfast. An undertaking of this scale will last for decades rather than years, as the Belfast Harbour Corporate Plan warns. But because of this the plans breathe excitement for the long-term future of the people of Belfast and Ireland. The redevelopments will offer opportunities for the construction industry for many years to come, and allow for re-assessment of the vision at each stage.
Such planning, preparation and implementation could set the city up to ride the crest of anticipated economic growth and put it in a position to attract further investment from around the globe so that the economy continues to surge far into the future.