Date: 09 Oct 2023
Category: City regeneration and development
A determined regeneration effort is now underway to restore Southern Great Victoria Street and Shaftesbury Square.
Partners Linen Quarter Business Improvement District (LQ BID), Belfast City Council and the Department for Communities have come together with the private sector to help revive the Golden Mile – once the city’s most bustling and vibrant stretch.
Billed ‘Great Expectations’, the project includes an initial investment of £450k in public sector capital funding which will enhance the streetscape, support the area’s business community and residents in a concerted effort to improve vibrancy and encourage further long-term private sector investment.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Ryan Murphy commented that collaboration is key in supporting city improvements.
Councillor Murphy said: “We know there’s a lot of work ahead, but Great Victoria Street and its surrounding areas are a key focus in our ambitious ‘A Bolder Vision for Belfast’ and the area is set to play an even greater role in the regeneration of the city soon, connecting the new Weavers Cross Transport Hub and the city centre.
“Connecting with the area’s established and emerging communities is a key priority for us and it’s fantastic to see continued private sector investment, helping to strengthen the city’s overall proposition and ensure Belfast remains as an attractive place to invest. We’re committed to working alongside partners and the community to help bring about positive change.”
Great Victoria Street’s decline has generated public concern in recent years, however the area is set to receive up to £1 billion investment in the next decade, with significant transformation already underway at Grand Central Station and Weavers Cross. Additional investment in the vicinity includes the Kainos HQ at Bankmore Square, student accommodation on Dublin Road and Hope Street, Belfast Rapid Transport Phase 2, and a major housing NI Housing Executive investment.
These investments offer an unparalleled opportunity to unlock Great Victoria Street’s potential and justify our “Great Expectations” for the area, says Chris McCracken, Managing Director of LQ BID.
He explained: “We’re pushing an open door to growth and prosperity, with the Linen Quarter fast becoming one of the city’s most vibrant areas to live, work and socialise. The transformation of Great Victoria Street is a top priority for us and we’re proud to work with partners to generate confidence and accelerate investment within the area.
“Alongside the Council’s Vacant to Vibrant Scheme we’re helping to bring unoccupied units back to life, and we’ve recently installed colourful vinyls which celebrate the street’s architectural heritage, including notable landmarks such as Shaftesbury Hospital, the Ulster Bank, and site of Terri Hooley’s famed Good Vibrations record store, creating an outdoor gallery. Research shows that enhancing streetscape is a direct catalyst for capital investment. Along with these important aesthetic interventions, we’ll also support the business community to market their services and encourage greater footfall.”
Initial work began in March 2023 and several shopfronts including Fanum House, Hope Street carpark and Great Victoria Street have been enhanced with vibrant references to several famous Linen Quarter landmarks including the Ulster Hall and the Crown Liquor Saloon, along with nods to upcoming developments such as Grand Central Station, representing the abundance of future investment and opportunity in the area.
Already home to Liberty IT, FinTrU and Options Technology, Kainos’ arrival will confirm the Linen Quarter’s growing role as a technology hub. Combining business and community will remain a priority for LQ BID, and partnership work is underway with employment groups GEMS NI and BSCR to support skills training, work experience and apprenticeships within its 300 member organisations.
Chris continued: “Transforming Great Victoria Street is not just a physical endeavour, it's about collaboration and we recognise the vital importance of engaging our local communities in this journey. Their views and feedback will be crucial in shaping a vibrant and inclusive future for one of Belfast's most iconic areas."
DfC’s Patrick Anderson, Director, of Belfast Regeneration said: "DfC is delighted to contribute to the revitalisation of the Great Victoria Street area. This investment by the Department, working collaboratively with the Linen Quarter BID and Belfast City Council, has improved the look and feel of the area, making it more attractive to those who live, work and visit here. This type of project demonstrates the Department’s commitment to support this part of Belfast City Centre, starting the revitalisation to part the ‘great’ back into Great Victoria Street.
Future interventions will also focus on sustainability and urban ecology, including planting at gap sites and habitat improvements, and a partnership with Ulster Wildlife which will install swift boxes, as part of the BID’s efforts to present Linen Quarter as Northern Ireland’s first sustainable district.