HE pledges £10k for feasability study at former furniture store site if funds are matched by Belfast City Council

‘Regeneration hub’ proposal probed

By Paul Ainsworth

A DERELICT Sandy Row building could be the spark that ignites a major regeneration of the area if it is transformed into a community hub, it has been claimed.

The crumbling building formerly housed furniture business Gilpin’s until it closed in 2007 and was then earmarked for private residential apartments. However that plan has folded due to the recession and the site is now used by local youths as an occasional drinking den.

Amidst hopes for a wider revamp of the Sandy Row commercial zone, the NI Housing Executive have agreed to pump up to £10,000 into a feasibility study of the site provided Belfast City Council match the figure. A decision will be taken this week by the Development Committee on whether to do so.

Speaking with the South Belfast News ahead of the council meeting, Garnet Busby of Sandy Row-based Belfast South Community Resources, said any new building should have facilities accessible by locals living around it.

“The original plan once the furniture shop closed was for apartments to be built, but we voiced concern at the time,” he explained

“The recession put a halt to that, but unfortunately, it has continued to fall into disrepair, and is frankly a health hazard, not to mention an eyesore right on the front of sandy Row.

“Local kids are in and out of it,playing, and sometimes it is used for drinking, but it is very unsafe as the roof has fallen in and the floors are unstable. The sooner it is redeveloped the better.”

Offering 45,000 foot of space, it is hoped that a mix of business premises, community usage space and some social economy living space could be developed.

“It could be a high profile project that will really kick-start further regeneration in the area if we get it going,” Mr Busby added.

“We would like to see something that can be utilised by locals and which can become a community hub.”

Both the Department for Social Development and the council are undertaking regeneration projects in Sandy Row and the wider Shaftesbury Square area.

A Belfast City Council spokesman told members of the Development Committee that the old Gilpin’s building was a “key site”, and that the proposed feasibility study would “compliment the council’s ongoing work.”

 

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