Belfast City Council has joined with Belfast Chamber, Belfast One and Visit Belfast to announce a range of projects aimed at continuing the regeneration and development of the city centre, one year after the Primark Fire.
The council, its partners, Belfast business community and other stakeholders have been continuing the successful work carried out in the wake of the fire, which began in the run up to last Christmas helping increase footfall across much of the city at the peak of the festive period.
Already underway is a marketing campaign Make it Belfast, funded by a £300,000 council investment. Led and delivered by Visit Belfast, the Make it Belfast campaign promotes the unique attractions and benefits of central Belfast to shoppers and visitors, and highlights the unique mix of retail on offer, from independent shops to international brands.
In addition, the marketing campaign will highlight events planned in the run-up to Christmas. These include events programmed by Belfast One, such as the popular Belfast Restaurant Week.
At a recent meeting of the council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, members agreed to support a number of initiatives which will continue to attract footfall and revitalise the city centre. Among the initiatives agreed by committee, are:
• Developing concept proposals for additional pop-up parks at locations in the city centre to encourage a range of users into Belfast and increase the time they spend there;
• developing a lighting and dressing strategy for the city;
• improving accessibility and connectivity by enhancing the city’s entries and lanes;
• more family-friendly events; and
• providing funding to enhance a number of cultural events, e.g. expansion of Culture Night to include Culture Day.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor John Finucane said: “It’s been a year since the Primark fire and it has been a challenging 12 months for our city centre traders, particularly those who were directly impacted by the necessary cordon and road closures that resulted.
“I’m pleased that our city centre is largely reopened again, and we have undertaken a lot of work in recent months with our city stakeholders and partners to get the message out there that Belfast is well and truly open for business; but we can’t take our foot off the pedal.
“These initiatives which form part of the City’s Revitalisation Programme have been made possible by funding from the Treasury, government departments and Council. This activity will continue to build on momentum, supporting the city’s cultural offering to continue to drive footfall and to animate the city, but also looking at how we improve our public realm and reimagine how we use our city centre spaces,” he said.
“We have an opportunity now, not just to go back to how things were, but to be creative about the future of our city centre and examine how Council can help support its development to cater for everyone’s needs including traders, pedestrians, cyclists and public transport providers.”
Anne McMullan, Director of Marketing and Communications at Visit Belfast said, “As the city’s official destination marketing organisation and the tourism marketing delivery agent for Belfast City Council, we work closely with partners to deliver consistent and sustained marketing to restore confidence, motivate visits and uplift the city’s reputation.
“Our marketing activity owes its success to a ‘Team Belfast’ approach, with continued collaboration and support from Belfast City Council, local businesses and city stakeholders.”
Rajesh Rana, President of Belfast Chamber said: “We are almost one year on and the objective now is to build on and bolster what this great city has to offer. We encourage people to search #MakeitBelfast to see the all that central Belfast has to offer.
“We fully commend Belfast City Council and we look forward to seeing these new initiatives coming forward in the months and years ahead.”
Managing Director of Belfast One, Clare Maguire, commented: “Belfast One collaborated with local businesses, retailers and restaurant owners to engage the community and drive footfall in the immediate aftermath of the fire and our year long programme of activities, events and member offers provided visitors with compelling reasons to visit the city centre.
“Next month we are bringing the phenomenonally successful Belfast Restaurant Week back before implementing numerous initiatives in the run up to the festive period which we anticipate will drive dramatic increases in footfall.”
She added: “We welcome the investment that the Council is bringing forward which will continue to grow the excitement around the city core”.
Under the City Growth and Regeneration committee proposals, a number of creative lighting projects are being developed for Castle Street and Castle Arcade with the support of traders, and discussions are ongoing around enhanced Christmas lighting and creative lighting features at a number of city centre locations.
Improvements are also planned as part of an Entries and Lanes Strategy to enhance the connectivity, appearance, character and use of city centre entries with the first phase to include Castle Arcade, Crown Entry, Joy’s Entry, Pottinger’s Entry, Coles Alley, Wellington Street and Winecellar Street.
As well as physical improvements, Council has agreed to provide financial support to enhance a number of cultural events in the city including the Belfast Music Summer Season 2019, showcasing the best of our local music across a variety of city centre locations and Culture Night with the addition of Culture Day, creating a programme of events to drive footfall and benefit retailers by encouraging movement across the city centre.
A range of family-friendly activities are in the planning including a global music and dance programme at Writers’ Square, a bazaar and food market at St Anne’s Cathedral, and a music stage at City Hall to facilitate performances from local bands, dance and theatre workshops, as well as a busking competition, pop-up performances and family cinema events.
A number of ‘foodie’ events are also being organised by city centre partners including additional weekend events, food demonstrations, a producers’ market as well as The Big Belfast Brunch.
The Lord Mayor added: “It’s vital that we support our city centre partners and stakeholders to maximise the collective potential of our regeneration efforts to transform the city and develop a shared vision for the future of our city centre that reflects the changing ways people use public spaces.”
The proposals agreed by the City Growth and Regeneration Committee are subject to ratification by full Council when it next meets on September 2.