Three hotels at key vacant sites now a real prospect

The site at Foyle Road/ Shipquay Place, part of which could now become a new �3m hotel.
The site at Foyle Road/ Shipquay Place, part of which could now become a new �3m hotel.

Derry’s city centre could be in line for three new hotels within a five minute walk of each other, it can be revealed today.

While planning permission has already been granted for the former Northern Counties Building on Bishop Street, fresh talks are now under way for another £3m hotel in the Foyle Road/ Shipquay Place area.

Work on a third hotel is also due to start soon at the former bank beside the Richmond Centre on Shipquay Street.

This £1m development was among the projects confirmed during a presentation by the Walled City Partnership (WCP) before this week’s Development Committee.

WCP project officer Ronan O’Donell said this “boutique hotel” will be their next project, and added that they were also looking at potentially refurbishing two other addresses below Nandos.

Mr O’Donnell also outlined the impact the Walled City Townscape Heritage Initiative (WCTHI) has had across the city centre since it was introduced in 2002, with 12 addresses refurbished on Waterloo Street alone.

“Waterloo Street in a period of 12 years has done a complete turnaround,” he said.

Among the other key projects undertaken were the Northern Counties Hotel and the ongoing Coyle Building restoration on Castle Street.

Mr O’Donnell said the Foyle Street/ Shipquay Place site was the “worst looking area of the town”, and that WCP had provisionally offered £450,000 towards the cost of the newly revised plans for a £3m hotel, but stressed that talks were at an early stage.

Concerns were expressed at the meeting over the implications that the transfer of urban grant aid funding- a key match funder for WCP- from the DSD to the new super-council could have for future developments, as core funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund requires 45p of match funding to be found for every 55p they supply.

Chair of the Development Committee, Sinn Fein Councillor Barney O’Hagan said however that this matter was a “key task” for the shadow council and was being raised with the new body.

“Everybody understands the importance of our built heritage and it needs to be cherished, needs to be protected,” he said.

“We know the buildings in the city centre that are currently at risk and certainly they need major work, and this scheme plays a major role in that.

“It is a key task for the shadow council in relation to regeneration.”

His party colleague Eric McGinley said there has been “very good work carried out on an ongoing basis” by the WCP.

“There is no doubt that the investment that is made is very wise and very sound, and brings a lot to the city centre.”

DUP Councillor Gary Middleton and Mayor of Derry, SDLP Councillor Brenda Stevenson, agreed, with Ms Stevenson stating: “The work being done there is excellent.”

The WCP has secured over £8m to secure the future of historic buildings in Derry’s city centre. Over the seven years of Phase One up to 2010, 15 properties were revamped using local architects and builders and creating 19 retail units, 22 apartments and 1,400 sq ft of office space. A further 13 properties have been secured to date at the mid-way point of Phase Two.