Skip to main content

Belfast aparthotel expected to be ‘part of renaissance’ of city centre street given go-ahead

Published on 18 June 2024

The blended style of accommodation, promising home comforts for hotel guests, has become increasingly popular across NI in recent years.

Belfast has given the green light for the city’s latest ‘aparthotel’.

Belfast City Council’s planning committee tonight recommended approval to turn Dorchester House on Great Victoria Street into a 136-bedroom development.

The city centre building will be entirely renovated on the inside, and have two new floors added to it as part of the project being led by Andras House Ltd, as part of a franchise agreement with Adagio. Dorchester House was formerly home to HM Revenue and Customs and sits on Belfast’s Great Victoria Street close to the Crown Bar and the Europa Hotel.

Work is due to begin on the project later this year and will see the existing office space of the building turned into over 130 rooms.

The two new storeys will add around five metres to the size of the new hotel, and the exterior of the lower floors will also be changed.

Within documents presented before the committee, a conservation officer said the proposed design changes would be “detrimental” to the “unified” nature of the current building’s design, but the “limited architectural/historic interest” of Dorchester House meant that the changes were appropriate.

The proposed hotel will be limited to lets of no more than 90 days as it has not been assessed for longer stays during the planning process.

Speaking before permission was granted, Rajesh Rana, managing director at Andras House Ltd had told Business Telegraph he was confident the project would fit well into the mix of accommodation available in Belfast.

"The hotel will offer something for leisure and business guests. Each of the rooms will have a kitchen area, and Adagio will provide breakfast too.

"The larger rooms and kitchens suit families and people who need more space.

"Dorchester House is a great site: it is highly visible on Great Victoria Street and will be close to the new Belfast Grand Central Station.

"Great Victoria Street has always been the main hotel street in Belfast, and the development will be part of the renaissance of the area.”

The Dorchester House development is the latest aparthotel to be opened in the city as part of a growth in this style of hotels across the sector.

Real estate investor and developer Lamington Group opened room2, a “hometel”, at the corner of College Street and Queen Street. Some of the 175 rooms offered at room2 feature kitchenettes.

Elsewhere, developer Lotus Property has plans for a £20m aparthotel on Wellington Place, which aims to provide 113 rooms including self-catering accommodation.

JMK group has plans for a 228-bed aparthotel on the Hamilton Dock site in the Titanic quarter.

It recently received a £28m development finance loan, managed by real estate company CBRE, from the Northern Ireland Investment Fund.

Aparthotels are marketed as a change to the traditional hotel experience.

Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotel Federation (NIHF) described them as, “an apartment/suite accommodation offer with hotel service. It may also have a self-catering element within the unit, additional space, and may have more than one room.

"Consumers have been looking at new products and we have seen the rise of mixed accommodation within the hotel environments — Killyhevlin Lakeside Hotel & Lodges, Lough Erne Resort, Roe Park and Galgorm to name a few.

“There are a number of specific aparthotel brands and some of these are planned for Northern Ireland.”

Mr Rana feels that people’s familiarity with Airbnb has contributed to the rise of aparthotels.

"Hotels are great, but sometimes people want more space or facilities. Aparthotels are about adding another card to the portfolio, and providing more options for people,” he said.

Ms Gault has a similar view of the role of aparthotels in the market: “The development of the aparthotel is about choice — what the customer wants, what the market is and the needs of the type of customer you are attracting or hoping to attract.

“Self-catering in the standard sense has been a market that has grown significantly, and many would argue that an aparthotel is the best of both worlds.”

She says she’s confident that the aparthotel style of accommodation will continue to prove popular.

“As a product, they have been around for a long time and are popular in other destinations, they simply add choice in a market that has seen significant investment over the last decade.

"Many are part of wider hotel brands and the market responses to new customer needs, brands have responded accordingly.”

And elsewhere, Andras House is currently investing in a number of hotels across NI, including a new £11m hotel in Portrush.

The Marcus Hotel Portrush is the company’s biggest investment outside of Belfast and has received £7m of support from Ulster Bank.

The company is one of NI’s biggest hoteliers. Founded in 1981, the company operates seven hotels, including, Holiday Inn Belfast City Centre, three Ibis Hotels, the Crowne Plaza, Hampton by Hilton Hotel, and Cordia Serviced Apartments.

Source: Belfast Telegraph (link opens in new window)