£2m heritage refurbishment project will enhance original features of retail landmark
A planning application has been submitted for the restoration and refurbishment of Queen’s Arcade, one of Belfast’s most iconic shopping destinations.
If approved the heritage project will bring the Arcade back to its former glory, including the restoration of its original iron signage and façade on Donegall Place, the laying of a new Italian terazzo floor and the creation of new shopfronts.
Built in 1880, Queen’s Arcade was originally designed as a “fashionable promenade” for “finely fitted shops”. Today it is home to Lunn’s Jewellers, which owns the Arcade, and a mix of cafes, restaurants and independent retailers.
Peter Lunn, Chairman of Lunn’s Jewellers, said: “Queen’s Arcade has been a much-loved part of Belfast for almost 140 years and this £2m restoration will ensure that it remains a popular Belfast landmark for generations to come.
“While modern alterations have helped obscure what an architectural gem the Arcade is, the proposed restoration will recapture its Victorian splendour and reputation as a home to specialist retailers.
“The recent destruction of the Bank Buildings has been a horrendous experience for city centre retailers, but this city and its people are resilient and we have a vision for its future. We believe Queen’s Arcade has a big role to play in bringing people back into the city centre.”
Queen’s Arcade is a Category B1 listed building and is Belfast’s last remaining Victorian shopping arcade. Designed by James McKinnon, the building was revamped in the 1930s to accommodate Austin Reed. The shop fronts were also redesigned at that time by renowned London shop fitters Frederick Sage & Co., whose other clients included Harrods and Selfridges.
The Arcade will remain open during the restoration work which will take place out of hours. The project will also restore its Fountain Street entrance and provide new bespoke iron work, lighting, signage and clocks. The work will also remove unsympathetic additions made in the 1970s and 1980s to fully reveal the detail in the Arcade’s vaulted ceiling.
The process is being led by renowned designer Suzanne Garuda who has previously completed projects for the K Club and the Sultan of Brunei, and architects Consarc, who have worked on projects such as Ashford Castle, Edinburgh University and Belfast’s Grand Opera House.
Mr Lunn added: “This restoration has been a long-held ambition and we have worked hard with heritage architecture specialists Consarc to develop sympathetic proposals. Our aim is to enhance what already exists and much of our inspiration has been drawn from photography dating back as far as 1885.
“Our ambition is to make sure Queen’s Arcade is synonymous with elegance, providing a beautiful space that restores its purpose as a home for luxurious but accessible retail. We’re also conscious that the Arcade is increasingly popular with tourists and we want to recreate its original grandeur to help develop a go-to destination that benefits the whole city centre.”
Depending on planning, it is hoped that restoration works will start in January 2019 and be completed in May 2019