A project to regenerate Bank Square in the heart of Belfast city centre is underway and is set to complete early in November 2014.
The project aims to create a high quality, sustainable public area that makes better use of this city centre site.
The works involve a series of improvements to Bank Square itself and the surrounding streets. The area will receive new natural stone paving, landscaping, lighting, free WI-FI, street furniture and art-work. The Northern Ireland Executive, through the Department for Social Development (DSD) aims to enhance existing and future commercial activities in the area through the regeneration scheme.
The £3 million project began in July 2013 with FP McCann Ltd acting as the main contractor on the project. RPS Ireland are the project architects and landscape architects involved in the scheme.
Commenting on their role as lead contractor for the scheme, Hugh McCann, Operations Director of FP McCann Ltd stated:
“We are delighted to be working on the Bank Square Regeneration project and to be delivering what will be an important scheme for Belfast City Centre. This scheme will transform Bank Square and its surrounding streets attracting tourists and shoppers. We are looking forward to working with the Department for Social Development to successfully construct the scheme.”
With work well underway the contractors are now on site excavating the area and paving the square and surrounding streets in stages. The scheme involves the natural stone granite paving treatments of the main footways, laying Kilkenny blue limestone on Bank Square to create a distinct at-grade surface for events and festivals; as well as improving the street lighting in the area.
Bespoke lighting columns will be installed within Bank Square and new boundary treatments along the blank walls of the CastleCourt service yard and the Tesco’s service yard are being carried out.
Existing trees have been removed and will be replaced with mature appropriate specimen planting complementary to the proposed use of the area. Street seating will also be installed within Bank Square and King Street to promote passive recreation use.
The scheme boasts many environmentally sensitive features including the erection of a green wall to negate the impact of the Castle Court Service Yard wall on the Bank Square environment. The green wall will also attract birds and introduce more greenery to the area. There will also be future proofing of utility infrastructures on the site to reduce the chance of excavation of the area.
The main challenge the team have encountered during the project has been programming the works around the schedules of local businesses. The team had to ensure that the organisations in the square could still operate in terms of their deliveries and their customer access requirements.
Although Bank Square is secluded from the main shopping area in the city centre the Minister for Social Development Nelson McCausland acknowledged that there would be some disruption. He said:
“I have been assured that any disruption will be kept to a minimum during the construction period, but I would ask city centre stakeholders and the public to bear with us, as the end result will be worthwhile. The legacy of this investment will build on what has already been achieved by the Belfast Streets Ahead Phase One works and create a safer, cleaner, more attractive, more accessible city centre, one we can all be proud of.”
Another aspect of the project is an Art-Trail which has been developed in a bid to entice footfall into the area and connect with other art-works in the Westside area. This art development is also aimed at providing a tourist attraction for visitors as well.
Minister McCausland continued:“This scheme is another key step towards developing Belfast city centre as an exciting, vibrant shared space for all sections of the community and one which will entice visitors to the city. It will also improve trading conditions; help to encourage more businesses to consider the Westside and Bank Square area as a potential location to do business. The project will also ensure that more creative use is made of the Square itself.
“The space will provide a significantly enhanced environment, which will attract more footfall and consumer spend to the area. The regeneration project will also create more employment opportunities for local people through business expansions and new business operators in the area.
“I have no doubt that, when completed, the Bank Square area will be totally transformed in term of its attraction to visitors, improved environment, and use of the square for performance and entertainment. Most importantly the perception of the area as a shared space for all sections of our community will have been transformed as well.”
Kilkenny Limestone Quarry Ltd
Kilkenny Limestone Quarry extracts and processes Irish Blue Limestone at its facility in Paulstown, Co. Kilkenny Ireland. The company operates a Blue Limestone Quarry and its Blue Stone is sold throughout Europe and Northern America. Blue Limestone is a limestone with a blue hue and in Ireland it’s to be found in the Kilkenny/Carlow region. No other natural stone has the same distinctive blue hue and fossil formations.
The Blue Limestone weathers exceptionally well in the temperature climate and has been used for hundreds of years on Ireland’s most prestigious buildings and gardens. It is highly versatile and can be used indoors and outdoors, and every piece of Kilkenny Blue or Fossil is unique.
Kilkenny Limestone Quarry Ltd, Phillip Maher, said:
“Our stone is quarried and processed under strict environmental regulation and as a result we have one of the smallest carbon footprints in the natural stone industry. We also excel in the premium strength category of natural stone in accordance with BS EN 7533-12:2006
“Kilkenny Limestone’s Material has an effective lifetime colour guarantee, due to its high purity (98%). As our stone wears away naturally, another pure colour layer is revealed.”
Kilkenny Limestone Quarry has been involved in many major projects both nationally and internationally including, More London Development, London; Ebrington Public Realm, Derry, Northern Ireland; and Irish Immigrant Memorial, Toronto, Canada. Additional projects include Antrim Castle, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland; and Viking Triangle, Co. Waterford, Ireland.In Amsterdam Holland we have been supplying Limestone kerbs and Paving since 1997 in their urban regeneration of the Canals and Viaducts.
Working on the Bank Square Regeneration project, Kilkenny Limestone Quarry was responsible for the supply of the Flamed texture finish on the blue limestone paving which was supplied in various sizes and pattern from thicknesses of 15cm and 5cm.
Commenting on the importance of the project, Phillip said:
“This project was important to Kilkenny Limestone Quarry as it strengthens our business with Northern Ireland and its use of locally sourced natural indigenous material. We have worked with FP Mc Cann on various other projects in Northern Ireland and have a good working relationship with them.
“We hope this project can be used as a reference, for the use of a natural and locally sourced material for future projects.”