Facelift aims to restore arcade to former glory

North street arcade at the time of the fire in 2004
North street arcade at the time of the fire in 2004

The noted North Street Arcade in Belfast is one of a number of sites due to benefit from a £650,000 facelift project.

The two-storey covered shopping arcade, built in 1936, ran between entrances on North Street and Donegall Street and met in a domed roof in the centre.

Some 20 thriving shops were based in the listed building until it was substantially damaged in a controversial blaze in 2004.

Since then it has been derelict and boarded up. However, with new funding announced yesterday, the facades around both entrances are to be given a facelift.

Councillor Steven Corr, chair of Belfast City Council’s Health and Environmental Services Committee, said: “The North Street Arcade is a listed building and is one of the iconic old buildings from the heyday of Belfast’s thriving past.

“We have decided to put the full £220k on this occasion into that general part of the city.”

Although it is only the outside facades of the arcade being improved at this time, he hopes the work may prompt further investment to the inside of the arcade.

Last year Terri Hooley, who ran the revered Good Vibrations record shop in the arcade, tried to use the launch of a new film about his shop to find the culprits of the blaze.

He demanded a public inquiry. There were unconfirmed claims that it had been a paramilitary attack and police have treated it as arson. Yesterday police said the file remains open and the investigation is still live

Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said yesterday that £650k will be divided between six council areas to give facelifts to various eyesores.

“This funding will enhance these areas, removing eyesores along key coastal areas and in our towns and cities, boosting tourism and helping our economy,” he said.

“I have seen at first hand – particularly in my home town of Derry – the good work that this dereliction funding can do so I was keen to continue it. This is why, in addition to the £500k provided by the Executive in the January Monitoring Round, I have provided a supplement of £100k from my own department’s funds.

“I congratulate the councils who secured funding in this round and commend the efforts of all those who applied. Unfortunately, not every bid could be successful but I encourage all councils to continue to submit quality bids so that I can continue to look for funding opportunities to tackle decay and dereliction.”

The £650k will be distributed to six council areas in this funding round; £220k for Belfast, £111k for Newtownards area, £102k for North Down, £80k for Newry and Mourne, £53k for Newtownabbey and £39k for Larne, Islandmagee, Glenarm and Carnlough.