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Heart of city centre transformed into children’s playground

Date: 22 Mar 2019

A ‘pop-up’ park in the heart of Belfast city centre was officially opened this morning by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Mark O’Donnell from Department for Communities.

A ‘pop-up’ park in the heart of Belfast city centre was officially opened this morning (Friday) by the Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Mark O’Donnell from the Department for Communities.

The exploratory playground has sprung up at Castle Place junction, in front of Bank Buildings - which is currently being restored and rebuilt following last August’s devastating fire. It’s part of an ongoing programme of activity to help increase footfall and introduce innovative approaches to create an attractive and welcoming city.

The park – which will be on site until the cordon around Bank Buildings is removed - includes a clock which mirrors the famous timepiece of Bank Buildings, and also gives a nod towards the passing of time and the arrival of spring. The park has been specifically designed for children to encourage exploratory play and learning in a safe and welcoming environment. It includes seating, seasonal planting, colourful animal sculptures and other play features, and provides a public space for all people to enjoy and relax in the centre of the city.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Deirdre Hargey said: “The junction here at Castle Place has always been one of the busiest thoroughfares in the heart of the city, but following the fire at Bank Buildings last summer, we were faced with the challenge of rethinking how we restore our city centre to the very vibrant place we know it to be.

“As part of that process, we’ve taken the opportunity to look at new ways of using our city centre – reimagining it, and looking to other cities around the world for inspiration on how public spaces are used.”

Recently Belfast City Council agreed to apply to the ‘Streets for Kids’ programme which provides guidance and advanced street design to create safe public spaces for children of all ages and abilities to learn, play, and move around the city. The Council is making a joint application with Belfast Healthy Cities to the programme.

Councillor Hargey added: “Over recent months, in tandem with our city partners, we have been exploring best practice in urban design and piloting new ideas. The pop-up park is a great way of putting our children and young people at the heart of city life, and there is evidence that urban spaces which support healthy child development also contribute to improved health for all our citizens in terms of cleaner air, improved mobility, inclusion and tackling loneliness – and these are all ambitions within the Belfast Agenda.”

The park has also received funding from the Department for Communities (DfC).

Mark O’Donnell, Belfast Regeneration Director at DfC said: “The Department for Communities has provided in excess of £2m to help address the impact of the fire at Bank Buildings, and help accelerate the economic recovery of the city centre during the reconstruction period. This funding has been allocated to a wide range of projects - including £50,000 towards the construction of a pop-up park in Castle Place - which are designed to drive increased footfall and consumer spend in the city centre during the intervening period, until reconstruction of the Bank Buildings is complete.”

To celebrate the opening of the new play space, Cathedral Quarter Trust will be providing some street entertainment at Castle Place this weekend, including performances by Tumble Circus, Jitterbug Jackson and The Raven Sisters to name a few.

On Tuesday (26 March) the safety cordon around Bank Buildings will be further reduced when the footpath from the corner of Zara (on Donegall Place) to the corner of Fountain Street is reopened. Abacus Beads, whose owner relocated to alternative premises in the wake of the fire, will also reopen on Tuesday.

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