William Street Hotel will be Derry’s answer to Temple Bar

A drawing of the proposed site at William Street
A drawing of the proposed site at William Street

Planning permission has been granted for a proposed seven floor hotel in the city’s William Street area.

The project, undertaken by Sean McLaughlin Architects, began its design scheme in September 2010, finally getting the go-ahead at a council planning meeting this month. The proposed hotel is to be built in William Street and Prince Arthur Street and it is hoped, will add to the urban fabric of the area and the city as a whole.

Project Manager and Principal Architect, Sean McLaughlin said: “Our client, Allied Ship Supplies, have looked at the best way to develop the site and want to make full use of its potential while holding on to key onsite facilities like the taxi business and local butcher, it was important they would remain as they are part of the character of the street and provide excellent service to the city centre so these will be preserved as part of the scheme. “The hotel is designed for visitors to come and join the local people in their own community and give them a safe, protected and quality environment in which to reside so they can use this as a base to explore the city, meet people then try out the bars, the eateries and local shops. “The tourists should bring cash into our city to generate the vibrant centre that we look for in a modern cosmopolitan city.

That’s what this is about. It’s about generating the local economy and streetscape, providing a quality environment for visitors.”

The hotel will have 62 rooms, and a rooftop garden offering a panoramic view of the city, introducing design standards set by such lucrative European cities as Manchester, London and Dublin. Within walking distance of the city walls and all of Derry’s major retail zones, the ambitious proposal plans not only seek to reap the benefits of the tourism industry but also to inject new life into the businesses surrounding the site.

“These buildings will be lit up” Sean explained: “They’ll be adding to the street’s character and generating a busy, vibrant streetscape which is very important, it’s the missing element of the street. This will encourage other businesses to invest in the street and to produce the quality required for the type of visitor that the city’s trying to attract.

“It’s all about experiencing what the city centre is about. The best example of that would be the Temple Bar area of central Dublin. You’ll find the kind of prevalent architecture and good quality buildings which offer good accommodation and generate activity for other business around them. So this building is like a catalyst for the regeneration of the William street area, it’ll bring large numbers of tourists to the central location, and with that their spending capacity, just think what that’ll do to the local bars and restaurants. We’re not competing with the local bars. The hotel would be encouraging people to use the facilities and then also use the nearby facilities as well.”

A plan of this size also means much needed new employment opportunities for Derry. A realisation that has not escaped Sean’s attention.

He said: “It’s going to generate jobs in the construction process and on a permanent basis, it’s going to generate jobs for the services that are going to be provided as part of the hotel package.

“We’d like to begin as soon as possible but it’s subject to finance and getting the hotel group on board and we’d like to be finished for summer next year for the City Of Culture celebrations. This is all about bringing recognition to the city. Think of the numbers of people staying here and the business that will bring to the street. There are possibilities here, future possibilities for the adjacent building owners. If local business people can understand the concept and the process that can be generated from this approach then it can open up business opportunities for others and neighbours which would be most important for a future vibrant city centre environment.”

The scheme also aims to promote public transport as the mains means of access to the building, with onsite taxi facilities and readily available links to the bus network, utilising and blending into the pre-existing space of the William Street area. Sean said: “This particular building uses every inch of it’s townscape. If you were in the centre of London, this is the way you would design, you must use all your space and this is what our city centre doesn’t do. This project really tips the scales in city centre development, using every square foot of the building to generate business and turnover.

“The important aspect now is to bring the right hotel chain onboard but we couldn’t go forward without the planning approval.

“It’s been a slow process” Sean added: “but we’ve gotten there.”