TITANIC RESTORATION

Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices Photo:  HLF website

Harland & Wolff Drawing Offices Photo: HLF website

Good to see some progress regarding the plans to restore the currently derelict Drawing Offices at the former Harland and Wolff headquarters, where the Titanic was designed. A £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will enable The Titanic Foundation Ltd. to restore the building, unlocking plans to transform the site into a luxury Four Star hotel.

The Harland and Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices on Queen’s Island in Belfast were the control centre for the largest shipyard in the world.  It was here that Belfast workers created and designed over 1,000 ships including the White Star Olympic Class Liners – Olympic, Titanic and Britannic and naval warships such as HMS Belfast. The Harland and Wolff building has been vacant since 1989 and has been considered ‘at risk’ for almost a decade.

The restoration of the B+ listed building into an 84-bedroom boutique hotel has the potential to create over 100 local jobs. The Lottery grant will specifically focus on developing the two historical drawing offices as spaces for public use. The boutique hotel will also tell the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage, focusing on the authentic spaces – Board Room, Telephony Room and Entrance Lobby – as well as the fixtures and fittings that relate to the local shipbuilding industry.

The grant has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable.

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, was delighted with the announcement: “Titanic Foundation in partnership with Titanic Quarter Ltd has been working on this project over the last two years. It has been a long process but worth it. With HLF’s support we will safeguard the drawing offices for future generations and unlock the commercial potential of the entire building as a boutique hotel with heritage at its core. This is a truly unique and authentic project for Belfast that could not have happened without the support from Heritage Enterprise Scheme.”

Head of HLF NI, Paul Mullan  Photo:  HLF

Head of HLF NI, Paul Mullan Photo: HLF

Head of the Heritage Lottery Fun in Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, looks at the history of the building where the Titanic was designed:

By the first half of the 20th century, Belfast was one of the world’s most dynamic industrial centres.  It was within the walls of Harland and Wolff’s HQ where the leading minds in ship design and engineering broke new ground to produce ships that were the envy of the world.

Sadly, the decline of city’s shipbuilding industry was mirrored in the steady decline of Harland and Wolff’s HQ.  Once a symbol of Belfast’s international importance, just over a decade ago it was placed onto Northern Ireland’s buildings at risk register.

But that memory of a dynamic shipyard has awoken in recent years. Today, Titanic Belfast is an incredibly successful tourist attraction. The SS Nomadic, which was built to ferry passengers to and from the Titanic, has been brought back to its former glory and is the highest rated tourism attraction in Belfast.  Close by, HMS Caroline is undergoing a transformation from being a forgotten piece of naval heritage into a museum which will tell a story of sea battles from both the First and Second World Wars.

The result is more than one million visitors to the Titanic Quarter each year. With this success comes a return to fortune for the derelict Harland and Wolff HQ.  £4.9m from our Heritage Enterprise programme will convert the building into an 83 bedroom hotel, with the potential to create over 100 jobs.

The £27m development will bring much wider economic benefits by bringing more visitors and investment to Belfast.  This unique hotel will gives new purpose to an important part of Northern Ireland’s built heritage, building on the Titanic theme of the Quarter whilst providing a stunning setting for visitors.

It also shows how we can use historic buildings creatively, in a way that helps people fully appreciate its past whilst enjoying its present uses and harnessing the collective resolve of both the private and public sector for the benefit of everyone.

We now need to bring this sense of purpose to our many other buildings at risk by challenging not-for-profit groups to partner with commercial operators to bring back into use those buildings which provide us with a direct link to our past.

This isn’t a nice to do but something that has a strong economic and revitalising value. Over two years ago a report on the economic value of Northern Ireland’s historic environment marked out this opportunity, making a strong case for this type of investment.  Today, in the Titanic Quarter and across the UK, Lottery money is helping people to realise the untapped potential of our vacant and underused historic buildings.

 

 

 

TRAINS BOATS & PLANES

Titanic Belfast New Year's Day 2014  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Titanic Belfast New Year’s Day 2014 Photo: © Michael Fisher

Welcome to 2014 and as travel in its various shapes and forms is very prevalent at this time of year I am starting with trains, boats and planes, as well as Shanks’ mare. On New Year’s Day 2013 my friends introduced me to the delights of a walk along The Flaggy Shore in County Clare and it inspired the development of my (almost) daily blog. Weather conditions were very different this time for the New Year party with the same group of friends, this time gathering at our house in South Belfast. A late brunch today was followed by a card game (gin rummy). The rain kept on coming down but by 3pm it was clear enough to go out for our annual New Year walk. Rather than heading for the Lagan towpath where we walked in the snow four yeas ago, we headed for Holywood along the North Down coast and began our walk on the promenade beside the railway station.

Blackford Dolphin oil rig at Harland & Wolff with plane coming in to land  Photo: © Michael Fisher

Blackford Dolphin oil rig at Harland & Wolff with plane coming in to land Photo: © Michael Fisher

On our way home we went for a drive in the Titanic Quarter where the Titanic Belfast visitor centre had been lit up for the holiday period. We also saw the 360-ft high oil rig Blackford Dolphin which is being re-fitted at the Harland and Wolff yard, having been towed here from Brazil. It has become Belfast’s unofficial Christmas tree!