The new look Belfast Waterfront marked a major milestone today, as the final fixtures were put in place on its £29.5 million extension.
A ‘topping out’ ceremony was held inside the remodeled venue, with representatives from Belfast City Council and Tourism Northern Ireland – who, along with the European Regional Development Fund, are funding the expansion – on hand to put the finishing touches to the outer shell.
They joined building contractors McLaughlin and Harvey and architects Todd to take in stunning views of the Lagan from one of two new riverside terraces, and agreed that the purpose-built centre delivered the ‘wow’ factor needed to attract larger, international conferences to Belfast.
“I’m blown away by what we’ve been shown today and firmly believe that business delegates travelling to Belfast will feel the same, once they step inside this outstanding space,” said the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Arder Carson.
“Like the original Waterfront, there’s a real buzz that something special is being created with our investment – not just for the venue, but for the wider city too. With just 200 days to go now until the doors open for business, I’m genuinely excited to return and see the finished product in May next year.”
Construction is currently on schedule and will now turn towards the interior spaces, ahead of fit out and upgrade works in the existing building.
Two interconnecting halls, three additional meeting rooms and a new reception area will integrate with the existing Auditorium and Studio spaces to create the city’s largest conference and exhibition facility, catering for up to 5,000 guests across 7,000m2 of flexible space.
“Now that the exterior structure and cladding are fully in place, it’s clear this is a modern, 21st century venue which not only turns the page on a new chapter for Belfast Waterfront and the surrounding area, but also reflects the dynamic, vibrant and forward thinking city Belfast has become,” said Councillor Declan Boyle, Chair of the Strategic Policy and Resources Committee.
“The bigger building delivers the floor space needed to compete with other cities for bookings, while the flexible layout takes on board vital feedback from organisers on what’s needed to encourage them to choose Belfast for their event. A new riverside entrance reaffirms the link to the Lagan, and reinforces the Waterfront’s position as both a physical and economic anchor within our city centre.”
And, with nine hotel developments already in the pipeline, the city – particularly the hospitality industry – is already feeling the benefits of the ‘Waterfront effect’.
“The expansion of Belfast Waterfront is the most significant and exciting project for tourism in our capital since the opening of Titanic Belfast in 2012, and will build on our efforts to make Belfast a world-class destination of choice for the business tourism market around the globe,” said Terence Brannigan, Chairman of Tourism NI.
“The state-of-the-art facilities will allow us to compete to a much greater extent for international conferences and exhibitions, benefiting hotels, restaurants and visitor facilities not only in the city, but across Northern Ireland. The business tourism market is highly lucrative with visitors across the UK spending, on average, three times more than a leisure visitor. We greatly look forward to working with all our partners, including Tourism Ireland and Visit Belfast, in helping to grow this market and delivering increased numbers in the years ahead.”