Tuesday, 17 June 2014
Belfast Gives Approval of the Controversial Development Project
A controversial development project along the River Lagan in Belfast has won approval from officials after a thorough review of how the project would affect the historical value of the local neighbourhood. Belfast Environment Minister Mark H Durkin announced approval of the plans late last week. Construction on the City Quays 1 project will begin later this year.
Officials were originally unsure of whether or not to allow the £250 million project to move forward. At the core of their reluctance were concerns over how a 21st century development would affect the historical nature of many of the area's buildings. The area in question, from the Clarendon wet dock to the site of the former Seacat ferry terminal is still home to a number of historical structures.
The completed project will include a mix of office buildings, hotels, restaurants, retail shopping and parking. The most important aspect, according to proponents of the development, is the much-needed high-end office space the project will provide. Durkin and others insist that the clients the office space will attract will be instrumental in revitalising an underused district that has been largely ignored in recent years.
It is hoped that developers will be very careful with the architecture during the design and build stage, so that it does not contrast too sharply with the historical nature of the district. Obviously, new designs must be embraced in this new era of technology. However, designs can be tempered so as not to ruin the overall atmosphere that the area is known for.
As for the infrastructure, certain portions will have to be upgraded in order to accommodate development. This is likely to include new high-speed telecommunications equipment to accommodate the networking needs of modern business. Exactly what that looks like it is not known yet, but details will be forthcoming as the project moves along.
Mr Durkin's decision was undoubtedly a difficult one to make. It is something officials all across Europe deal with on a regular basis. On the one hand is a desire to preserve the old for its historical and cultural value. On the other hand, one wants to embrace the new for the simple fact that it will, whether we like it or not, carry us into the future. It is a balancing act that is not always easy to get right.
Everyone involved obviously hopes the City Quays 1 is a commercial success. It would go a long way toward improving the business environment in Belfast, especially along the waterfront regions. Future developments could spur even more companies to set up shop in the Northern Irish capital.
At the same time, no one wants to forget the maritime history of the local area. It is an important part of who and what Belfast is. Perhaps the developers can keep that in mind by including maritime influences in their architectural plans. It would be a wonderful recognition of the past, incorporated into the future.