A transformative multi-million-pound tourism attraction in the heart of Belfast city centre has been announced following the signing of the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD).
The landmark £100 million Belfast Stories development is the city’s flagship project – one of seven projects included in the BRCD’s tourism and regeneration plan.
Due to open in 2028, elements of the new visitor attraction will be housed in one of Belfast’s most beloved heritage buildings, the art deco former Bank of Ireland building on Royal Avenue, which has been acquired by Belfast City Council for the project, along with the surrounding 4,000sq metres site.
The listed building will be restored and the space around it developed as part of the transformative regeneration project that will tell the stories of Belfast, the people and the place through a new interactive visitor experience.
It will also include a new state-of-the-art multi-screen cultural film centre and vibrant public spaces for events and ongoing programming.
Belfast Lord Mayor Kate Nicholl said the announcement marked a “significant moment” for the city and its future.
“Belfast Stories will reflect the unique spirit of our city through a variety of media and immersive experiences. It will drive culture-led regeneration across the city, giving us the opportunity to put the people of Belfast and their stories at its heart,” he said.
“It’s an investment, not just in monetary terms, but in our people and the generations to come, and an important investment in our heritage and in our future.
“This is a hugely positive news story for the city and will reap benefits not just for our tourism sector, but in the creation of new jobs and regenerating communities.
“The project is not just about the city centre however – we will also be connecting it to the development of neighbourhood tourism.”
Another ambition of the project is to be a sustainable, zero carbon, climate resilient exemplar for the city and region.
Options for renewable energy solutions, including the feasibility of geothermal energy sources, are currently being explored.
A green rooftop urban park is also being considered as part of the early project plans offering panoramic views across the city.
Ms Nicholl added: “It is incumbent upon us to consider how new developments in the city can be sustainable as we look at ways of addressing climate change.
“This new facility will use the latest technology and that will also extend to how it is operated, with the environment in mind.
“We want Belfast Stories to be a shining example of what our future city can be, and one our future generations can be proud of.”
The new film centre will showcase the best visual storytelling from NI and around the world as well as supporting the skills and talents of local artists, supporting sector growth.
It will also provide important access to Northern Ireland Screen’s Digital Film Archive, allowing visitors to explore our rich screen history and authentic local stories, all facilitated by a year-round programme of talks and interactive events.
Belfast City Council Chief Executive and chair of the BRCD Executive Board Suzanne Wylie said: “This is a transformative project, not just for our city centre, but for the entire region.
“I am delighted that now, with the signing of the Belfast Region City Deal, we can take the first steps on our journey to make this landmark tourism attraction a reality.
“The positive impact of delivering the Belfast Stories development will be felt for many years to come, with the seeds sewn now as we look ahead to opening the venue in 2028.
“I am immensely pleased that we are at this point in our BRCD journey and to have reached this important milestone.
“It is evidence of what can be achieved when there is common purpose, and I think we’re spearheading a new way of public-private sector working which will make a really positive difference to people’s lives here.”
Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Northern Ireland Screen, said: “It’s widely acknowledged that Belfast punches above its weight when it comes to its cultural offering.
“The creativity on these shores cannot be overstated; we are a veritable powerhouse, and the Belfast Stories project will keep that momentum going in the right direction.
“Our culture and arts sector is starting to get the recognition it so rightly deserves in being central to Belfast’s future as we continue on our post-Covid journey.
“We now have a wonderful opportunity to seek out and curate the stories of our city for a new audience, and ensure they are preserved for future generations.
“Today’s stories are, after all, the stuff which legends are made of, and it’s time that we celebrated Belfast for all its complexities and be proud of this city we call home.”
Kathryn Thomson, chair of Visit Belfast, added: “This investment in our tourism offering will shine another positive light on Belfast as an exciting visitor destination.
“As well as having the potential to transform another area of Belfast, it will have a positive ripple effect across the entire region and the island as a whole, supporting tourism recovery and acting as a catalyst for inclusive growth through the creation of new and better jobs.
“This visitor experience will be authentically Belfast, celebrating the city, its people and its stories, and what makes them unique.
“It will further galvanise our growing tourist offering and provide even more reasons for local, national and international visitors to spend more time in Belfast.”
For more information visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/belfaststories and follow the conversation #BelfastStories
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