The extension to Belfast Waterfront comprises a two interconnecting multipurpose halls (27,000ft2), meeting rooms and a 7,000ft2 reception area. The £29.5m facility opened on 29th April 2016.
The original Belfast Waterfront building was built 1993 – 1997; for more information on the original building click here.
Belfast City Council commissioned a Feasibility Study in 2008 to consider the development of a Convention Centre in Belfast. The study indicated that the Waterfront Hall lacked sufficient exhibition and banqueting space and provided inadequate breakout provision for the conference market.
The study considered a number of alternative options for the provision of enhanced conference and exhibition facilities within the city. (1) Sirocco Quay: The Carvill Group proposed a purpose built facility opposite the Waterfront Hall on the east side of the River Lagan connected by a new footbridge; (2) Odyssey Redevelopment: The Odyssey Trust considered reconfiguring the Odyssey Pavillion to facilitate an exhibition and conference facility. This option required the relocation of W5, substantial capital works and the construction of an adjacent hotel to make the option financially viable; (3) Titanic Quarter: Titanic Quarter Ltd had been in contact with a New York based entrepreneur who has expressed a desire to construct a conference and exhibition centre alongside an International Standard Museum and Multi-Media Campus adjacent to the Northern Ireland Science Park; (4) Lanyon Plaza: Four floors within the office building providing additional floor space of c8,000m2; (5) Waterfront Hall: The extension of the Waterfron Hall into the ground and first floor of the neighbouring Lanyon Quay building.
Belfast City Council commissioned a Business Case in February 2011 to explore the feasibility of creating a link between the Waterfront and the vacant ground and first floor levels of the neighbouring Lanyon Quay building.
During this time the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment indicated that they would be willing to allocate £10m of the Department’s ERDF funds to the project if this were to be matched from other sources. The Northern Ireland Tourist Board indicated a willingness to contribute £2m from its Tourism Development Scheme and Belfast City Council proposed to contribute at least £8m.
Following the completion of the Business Case Belfast City Council commissioned RSM McClure Watters to complete a full ‘Green Book’ Economic Appraisal to consider the most appropriate option for the development of integrated conferencing facilities in Belfast. It was concluded at an early stage that the Lanyon Quay link option would not meet the requirements of conference operators and an alternative proposal to develop the land between the Waterfront Hall and the Hilton Hotel, over the service yard, was taken forward as the preferred option.
Robinson McIlwaine Architects were engaged to do the preparatory design work and VB Evans provided the associated costs.
In June 2012 Belfast City Council approached the Strategic Investment Board seeking their professional support in the delivery of the project. A team was put together to finalise the business case, review design proposals and the associated capital costs. The team included TRS Consultants (convention centre operational design consultants), Kennedy Fitzgerald Associates (architects), VB Evans (cost consultants) and Ekosgen Consulting (ERDF financing experts).
In April 2013 an application was submitted by Belfast City Council for an ERDF grant of £14.5m and £4m from NITB’s Tourism Development Scheme. Belfast City Council increased its proposed contribution to £11m.
A design team was appointed early summer 2013 to develop detailed designs for the Waterfront extension, to include further conference, events and exhibition space. A planning application (Z/2013/1365/F) seeking permission to extend the Waterfront Hall was submitted at the end of November 2013. The application read: “new conference and exhibition facilities augmenting the existing Waterfront hall and incorporating multi-functional spaces, ancillary dining facilities, offices and storage and all associated infrastructure and site works.” The planning application was approved in June 2014.
Enabling and infrastructure works took place between April – August 2014. The main contractor, McLaughlin & Harvey was appointed in August 2014 and commenced on-site in September 2014. FK Lowry completed the installation of 253no. 450 diameter CFA piles on the scheme during autumn 2014. Walter Watson began erecting the steel frame of the extension in January 2015. The steel frame is an independent structure linked into the concrete frame of the original Waterfront building. The steel frame was completed in June 2015 and cladding of the new extension was completed by end of 2015.
Fit-out was completed during spring 2016 and the building was officially opened on 29th April 2016. The total cost of the project was £29.5m (Belfast City Council, £11m; ERDF, £13.3m; Tourism NI, £5.24m).