The burgeoning hotel sector in Northern Ireland is set to expand further with news this month of a new French-style boutique project in the heart of Belfast.
Developers Andre Graham and Seamus Sweeney – best known locally as the founders of the Kremlin nightclub in Belfast – are currently seeking planning permission for a £6.5m proposal to create the 78-bedroom Marquis hotel in the former Belfast Hospital for Sick Children building at Queen Street.
Interviewed at length for this month’s LCN, Andre Graham revealed that a planning application will be submitted for the new hotel next month. If planners give the scheme the green light, work could get underway on the project as early as September.
‘We’ve been waiting for some time for exactly the right opportunity in the city and we believe this place is tailor-made,’ remarked Andre.
Built in 1878, the listed hospital building is still largely intact, but it has been on the ‘at risk’ register since 2006. Both Andre and Seamus are excited about the opportunity to save the old structure and bring it back into service and although they are already working closely with the NI Environment Agency to ensure compliance, they will shortly be instigating interim measures at the site to prevent further deterioration of the building’s fabric.
The building itself served as an RUC station during the Troubles and some of its original features were removed during that time, but both men are keen to preserve as much of the remaining original structure as they can during the development, which is being led by Belfast-based architects, RPP.
The bulk of the hotel will be created from scratch at the rear of the site, but the listed hospital building at the front, once renovated, will account for around 25 per cent of the floor space in the venue. A four-star French bistro and a Parisian-style courtyard area known as The Orangery are included in the plans.
Welcoming news of this latest hotel development, Colin Neill of Hospitality Ulster told LCN that the Marquis represented ‘another positive for Belfast’, but added:
‘Obviously, we are keen to see the same benefits of tourism spread across the province and that is the challenge for us now…Tourism is our only growth industry and it is up to Tourism NI and Tourism Ireland to ensure that it grows right across the country.’
Andre and Seamus hope that if everything goes according to plan, The Marquis could be open for business by Christmas 2020.
To read the full interview and see more pictures of the site, turn to pages eight and nine in the current edition of LCN.