Linen Quarter BID Re-Imagines Public Realm

Last month the Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon, highlighted the need to improve the pedestrian and cycling experience in Belfast. To support this initiative the Linen Quarter BID has launched new public realm proposals within the District.

LQ BID have championed the concept of sustainable urban regeneration since its inception in 2018. Its regeneration vision laid the groundwork for more sustainable transport with improved green and social space.

To build on this vision three new ideas have been proposed. These include transformation of on-street parking bays to create a pedestrian boardwalk, weaving its way from City Hall to Botanic; installation of roadside parklets with benches and planting; and development of a new social hub at Brunswick Street. These interventions improve accessibility through the city and facilitate outdoor activities to help local hospitality. It is hoped that funding could be made available through a new urban regeneration fund being considered by the Department for Communities.

Mike Gatt, General Manager at Maldron Hotel Belfast City, said: “We welcome these proposals from Linen Quarter BID, which could deliver enormous benefits. The scheme would bring much needed footfall to the area and provide a safe and attractive environment for people to socialise. The outdoor space would support social distancing and help sustain local hospitality during these challenging times”.

Linen Quarter BID also supports the implementation of cycle lanes within the district and envisage the creation of a new cycle greenway from Ormeau Park to Ormeau Road, via the proposed “City Deal” bridge over the river Lagan, and then on to Great Victoria Street Transport Hub and Queen’s University.

Improving the cycling and pedestrian infrastructure will encourage more sustainable modes of transport, enhancing health and wellbeing while also improving air quality.

Chris McCracken, Managing Director of LQ BID said: “We want to see a Linen Quarter characterised by cycling greenways, improved pedestrianisation, and more vibrant social space. A re-imagined city centre is a once in a generation opportunity, and we hope our ideas positively contribute to the current debate.”

At Brunswick Street and Linenhall Street West, part closure of underused roads and associated on-street car parking could take place to allow for the creation of new large-scale pedestrianised spaces. Raised platforms on top of existing road surfaces can be used for insertion of (temporary) outdoor activities and al fresco dining. Additional elements within these new social spaces could include planters, artworks, children’s play features and sun loungers that will help to attract people of all ages. It is anticipated that these spaces could also help to advertise the Linen Quarter as a destination for families as well as other types of users.

Transformation of on-street parking spaces into a continuous boardwalk between City Hall and Shaftesbury Square would see a wooden boardwalk placed directly on top of the 70-odd parking bays along the western side of Linenhall Street, Linenhall Street West, and western side of Dublin Road. This would create a continuous ‘pedestrian highway’ with widened pavements that can be used for pavement cafes, children’s play features and other outdoor activities. Due to its continuous nature, the boardwalk could help to improve wayfinding throughout the district as well.

Parklets on on-street parking spaces could see individual parklets placed directly on top of parking bays across the district, mostly adjacent to hospitality businesses. The parklets can be customised to the specifications of individual businesses to allow for al fresco drinking or dining. Each parklet occupies one or two parking spaces and can include features such as seating, planting, and bicycle parking. Such parklets would help to create a livelier streetscape.

And finally, a new cycle greenway would run from Ormeau park across a new Lagan bridge to the Gasworks and beyond via Ormeau Avenue to Queen’s University as well as the future Transport Hub. The Greenway would include segregated cycle lanes, sufficient bicycle parking facilities and convenient waymarking. Dedicated traffic light would allow for convenient crossing of other road infrastructure.

For further information on Linen Quarter BID and what they do, visit www.linenquarter.org

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