Tourist hostel could ‘breathe new life’ into Strand Road

A proposed new 50+ bed tourist hostel planned for Derry’s city centre could breathe new life into the Strand Road area, its owners say.

Plans have been submitted for the new hostel in old offices on the upper floors of 51 Strand Road, above an existing Internet cafe.

The idea originates with business partners Johnny Bianco and Tommy Linehan, who run the thriving Internet hub ‘Cafe Connect’ below. Canadian-born Bianco, who spent years in the Canadian Air Force before relocating to Derry 13 years ago, told the ‘Journal’: “When we saw the huge potential of the space upstairs, we approached the building’s owners, T&E Howies, with our idea of a hostel and they were completely behind us.”

Mr Bianco hopes plans get the go-ahead to maximise the building’s potential during 2013. “I hope all the local departments involved will co-operate and we can get this hostel up and running before the Fleadh in August to help with the accommodation shortage in Derry,” he said.

Paul Howie, director of T&E Howie’s, thinks it’s a “brilliant idea”. “Our building has been fairly disused so we are more than happy that a new business will be built here - it can only be good for the Strand Road area, I’m 110% behind them.”

If planning is approved, it would see 51 Strand Road become the city’s largest hostel.