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Belfast ‘could be next Copenhagen or Seattle’ under ambitious waterfront plan

Published on 7 December 2023

A Danish urban design firm was commissioned to reimagine the waterside from Ormeau Park to Sailortown.

Belfast has the potential to become a great waterfront city in the same league as Copenhagen and Seattle, it’s been claimed.

Charity Maritime Belfast Trust has led the development of an ambitious plan for the area from Sailortown to Ormeau Park, christened ‘the Promenade’.

It’s claimed it would connect the River Lagan through the heart of the city along both sides of its waterfront.

They said that 10,000m of the waterfront is available for development and provides a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ to provide economic and social benefits for Northern Ireland.

There would be nine separate “character areas” including Sailortown, Harbour Park and Harbour Wharf near Titanic Belfast, Gateways centred around the Lagan Weir and Up River which stretches to Ormeau Park.

And there are plans for new pedestrian and cycle bridges across the Victoria Channel, as well as public spaces, playgrounds, heritage trails, floating boardwalks, businesses and wetlands, moorings and decking.

The framework has been drawn up by Danish urban design firm, Schulze-Grassov, which also worked on Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz and London’s Design District in Greenwich.

Kerrie Sweeney, chief executive of Maritime Belfast Trust, said: “Over the past 30 years Belfast has rediscovered its waterfront with projects such as the Lagan Weir, ICC Belfast, Odyssey Arena, Titanic Quarter and City Quays.

“Such is its scale, however, over half of the city’s waterfront area remains to be regenerated. We’re ready for the next stage, but this generational opportunity will only realise its full potential if everyone adopts a joined-up approach.

“The Promenade framework, backed by all the key groups involved in Belfast’s waterfront, is the starting point for the next 30 years of development.

“It won’t happen overnight, but there’s no reason why Belfast can’t be a great people-centric waterfront city on par with locations such as Copenhagen, Stockholm or Seattle.”

Oliver Schulze, co-founder and partner with Schulze+Grassov, said: “Belfast is world famous for its shipbuilding heritage, but few people – internationally or even in Northern Ireland – really appreciate how long the city’s waterfront is and its proximity to the city centre - or the stunning backdrop of the Belfast Hills.

“These natural advantages help make this remarkable urban space internationally significant. The framework aims to build upon these elements and create a shared sense of place to link and enhance future development projects.”

Councillor Clíodhna Nic Bhranair, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “As we’ve outlined in A Bolder Vision for Belfast, we’re passionate about enhancing connectivity in the city – and now, the Belfast Waterfront Promenade gives us an unparalleled opportunity to turn towards the river and connect right through the heart of the city along both sides of its waterfront.

“Our waterfront is an amazing natural asset for Belfast and its regeneration can help to reconnect and revitalise existing communities, create new communities and support jobs, tourism, and investment.”

She said the council was looking at ways to fund a new bridge to link Sailortown and Titanic Quarter.

And she added that communities living close to the river would be given a say and involvement in decisions about the project.

The Belfast Waterfront Task Group is made up of Maritime Belfast Trust, Belfast City Council, Belfast Harbour, Titanic Quarter Limited, Tourism NI and the Departments for Communities, Infrastructure, the Economy and of Agriculture, Environment & Rural Affairs.

Full details of the plan are available at where the public is also invited to share their views on how Belfast’s waterfront should be developed.

Maritime Belfast Trust is the charity which preserves the city’s maritime history. It has led on commercial projects including visitor centre Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and the transformation of the H&W Drawing Offices into a hotel.

Source: Belfast Telegraph (link opens in new window)