Construction on the £29.5m extension to Belfast Waterfront is set to get underway this summer following confirmation of funding for the project.
The target is to complete construction work on the new conference and exhibition facility by December 2015, with the extension fully operational by mid 2016.
Belfast City Council had already committed £11m to the project as part of its £150m investment programme and on 30 January, Northern Ireland Enterprise Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster announced she had approved funding of £18.5m.
A significant part of that funding (£14.5m) comes from the European Regional Development Fund, under the European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, and administered by Northern Ireland Tourist Board, which is also providing funding of £4m.
“This is great news for both tourism and the economy, following on the heels of the newly opened Visit Belfast Welcome Centre,” said Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir. “It will also provide employment opportunities with up to 400 construction jobs created during the building phase and the contract will include social clauses to provide placement opportunities for the unemployed, apprentices, students and trainees.”
Belfast Waterfront’s new extension will provide an additional capacity of 4,000sqm to attract larger events.
“Business tourism is recognised as being a significant growth area for Belfast during the next 10 years and we believe the new facilities will enable the Waterfront to attract an additional 50,000 conference delegates to Belfast every year – twice the current rate,” said Alderman Gavin Robinson, Chairman of Belfast City Council’s Strategic Policy and Resources Committee, which is responsible for delivering the investment programme.
Jennifer Patterson, Revenue and Business Generation Manager at Belfast Waterfront Conference Centre, added: “The funding announcement is a win-win situation for everyone and will dramatically transform our existing facility, which will see our usable space double in size. Foremost, our expansion will offer clients more choice, greater flexibility and even bigger space to host their events.”
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