Architects and a number of other firms have been appointed to turn the six-storey Scottish Mutual building in Belfast into a boutique hotel as its owners fight to plug a funding shortfall caused by government cuts.
It’s understood Dublin-based architects Douglas Wallace have now been appointed to oversee design of the project.
And a number of others firms, including mechanical engineers and quantity surveyors, have finally been appointed to undertake work on the ambitious city centre hotel.
The Scottish Mutual hotel was one of the first listed building projects to be hit by a grant freeze – leaving a shortfall in the project’s funding.
It had hoped for more than £500,000 towards the £12m project by the Ballymena-based Hill family, which owns the Galgorm Resort & Spa.
Douglas Wallace was also the design team behind the resort’s latest major extension.
But despite the funding setback, the owners remain optimistic the project – which has now been extended to include 67 bedrooms – will be completed by autumn 2016.
Tullymore House Ltd – the firm behind the hotel – has been in early discussions with Belfast City Council in regards to possible funding.
It’s understood one area the group is looking into is the Belfast Investment Fund – in an attempt to plug the gap caused by a grant freeze for listed buildings in Northern Ireland.
Some £20m has been set aside for so-called ‘landmark projects’ across the city.
Projects funded through the scheme must “secure at least 50% of their funding from other sources” and contribute significantly back in to the city.
Candidates eligible for a chunk of the funding must demonstrate the project can have a “transformational impact” and help regenerate – as well as inject cash – back into the city.
And the owners of the Scottish Mutual Hotel would have to convince a newly formed super council — which comes in to effect tomorrow — that their boutique hotel fits that brief.
A hotel of its size could bring in an annual rates bill of around £200,000 for Belfast.
And it’s understood it could be seeking between £500,000 and £1m.
The funding gap came after Northern Ireland’s draft budget indicated there will be no funding for any ‘listed building grants’ in future. The additional cash is often used to undertake ‘sympathetic restoration’ work in order to maintain the traditional look and feel of older, protected properties.
The Scottish Mutual building was bought by the Hill family in 2013, amid ambitious plans of turning it into a luxury hotel.
The listed building was then sold for £2m after it was put on sale by the Republic’s ‘bad bank’, Nama.
The Hill family also opened a new restaurant — Fratelli — in Belfast, towards the end of last year.
Meanwhile, progress has been made on a flagship 84-bedroom four-star ‘boutique’ development, based at the old Harland & Wolff headquarters and Drawing Offices. It’s secured almost £5m from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the development.
Planning permission has also been granted for a further three hotels in the area, which could include an additional 500 new rooms for the city.
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