Locals furnish their opinions on old Gilpin’s site

By Paul Ainsworth

LOCALS in Sandy Row are soon to be asked for opinions on the future of a derelict site set to be transformed for community use.

A new ‘steering group’ has been set up in the area, with the help of Belfast City Council, as part of an overall reimaging of the loyalist working class community.

Earlier this year, the council and the Housing Executive agreed to a request from Belfast South Community Resources (BSCR) to co-fund a feasibility study looking at the potential for redevelopment at the former Gilpin’s site.

The new steering group will consult with locals to see what they would like to appear. Garnet Busby of BSCR said the end result could see a swathe of new commercial enterprises offering jobs for locals.

“Sandy Row is really changing but the Gilpin’s building has a real historical connection for locals,” he said.

“The 36th Ulster Division once trained here back in the time of Carson, so we would all like to see it restored and in use. Our plan now is to have public meetings to get ideas of what people want. These can include having ground floor retail space, for example, as there’s 45,000 square foot of that available, and then maybe a cultural or arts centre there too. Perhaps even some housing on the top floor?

“It’s at the early stages, but we are getting the architects in this week to have a look, and that will help direct our ideas. Either way, I hope that if we get commercially viable business up and running here, we will be offering much-needed employment for local people.”

South Belfast councillor Christopher Stalford, Chairman of the new steering group added: “Sandy Row is a vital part of the fabric of Belfast, which unfortunately has suffered neglect in recent years. Through projects such as this, coupled with work being undertaken as part of our ‘Renewing The Routes’ initiative and the Integrated Strategic Tourism Framework, the Council is committed the regeneration of the area and driving this project forward.”

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