Council approve £10.5m Castlecourt plans for a cinema and a family entertainment complex

125 construction jobs will be created during the building and fit-out and up to 130 full and part time jobs when completed

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 2nd March 2022, 6:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 10:15 am
Architects drawing of the new leisure space
Architects drawing of the new leisure space

Planning applications for a cinema and a family entertainment and adventure specialist to create a multi-offer proposition in the 120,000 sq ft space vacated by Debenhams in CastleCourt Shopping Centre have been approved by Belfast City Council.

Omniplex Cinema Group will occupy 30,000 sq ft with luxury cinema brand ‘The Avenue’. Meanwhile, the family entertainment scheme will take up 50,000sq ft. The remaining 40,000sq ft has been earmarked for further retail activity with details to be announced soon.

A new flagship Starbucks is also due to occupy a substantial new site in the centre, with significant on-street presence.

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Architects drawing of the new leisure space

The two major projects represent a combined investment in CastleCourt by owner Wirefox, Omniplex Cinema Group and the family entertainment provider of £10.5m. The Starbucks operation adds a further £350,000 investment in CastleCourt.

125 construction jobs will be created collectively during the landlord conversion and build, and subsequent tenant fit-outs. Up to 130 full and part time jobs will be created across all operators upon completion.

Wirefox director Lucy Elliott, said: “From its inception in 1990, CastleCourt has been hugely popular with shoppers from all over Belfast and Northern Ireland. The addition of The Avenue by Omniplex and the high-end family entertainment and adventure offering signals CastleCourt and its wider area’s renewal and rejuvenation by offering memorable experiences people will want to repeat, in line with the changing shape of city high streets across the UK and Ireland. At the same time, we are seeing growth in our retail partners with new tenants and a new, bigger Starbucks making it the brand’s flagship operation in Northern Ireland. This blend of retail, leisure, bars, cafes and restaurants will attract more footfall to the city centre and enhance our visitors’ CastleCourt experience.

“The future for CastleCourt looks very strong and we are looking forward to work starting on these sites as soon as possible.”

Alana Coyle, director at joint agent CBRE NI, explained: “Fresh off the back of the announcement of Schuh footwear joining the tenant line up within the scheme, it is exciting to be able to confirm the further addition of the leisure occupiers in addition to a new flagship Starbucks coffee shop creating a striking active frontage at the entrance to the scheme.

“CastleCourt has bounced back strongly following the relaxation of Covid restrictions and the ongoing renaissance of this area of the city centre has seen a considerable growth in demand from retail occupiers.”

The Avenue by Omniplex, covering 30,000sq ft will include nine luxury screen cinemas and bar. The luxury cinema is scheduled to open in December 2022.

The Avenue will accommodate up to 540 patrons with diverse scheduling across its nine screens, boasting all modern amenities such as the latest in Laser Barco projection and Dolby Digital surround sound technology. Offering an unmatched cinema experience to Belfast’s city centre, The Avenue, finished with plush interiors and comfortable sofa-like seats as standard in all screens, will also feature a fully licenced bar, kitchen and lounge area. Cinemagoers can swap out their usual cinema soft drink for a glass of wine, cocktail or draught beer, or sample a range of small plates, gourmet burgers or freshly made pizzas served directly to seats. As for everyone’s favourite cinema snack, freshly made popcorn on-site, will also be available.

Omniplex director, Paul John Anderson, continued: “Working alongside Wirefox, we are delighted to have secured the necessary planning permission to progress with this scheme and can finally unveil more details of our luxury cinema brand ‘The Avenue’. Being the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, we hope that The Avenue will draw cinemagoers into the city centre for quality service in an intimate and luxurious cinema setting.”

The construction and fit-out contract has been awarded to leading company GRAHAM. Mark Gibson, managing director GRAHAM Interior Fit-Out, said: “We are delighted to be working with the Wirefox team once again. Having completed several similar projects across the UK and Ireland, it’s exciting to see the innovative transformational plans envisaged for CastleCourt. The GRAHAM Interior Fit-Out team are proud to bring together localised delivery partners to revitalise the vacated Debenhams unit into a vibrant retail & leisure space. At its peak, the delivery site will have 50+ operatives across multiple trades, which will create much welcomed new job and apprenticeship opportunities, vital for the local construction industry. We look forward to playing our part in the regeneration of one of the city’s most popular retail & leisure destinations.”

The announcement has been welcomed by the 75 retailers based in CastleCourt who have recorded consistent uplifts in sales performance since reopening last summer following the lifting of covid restrictions.

Paul Wilson of joint agent Savills, which conducted the transactions added: “Following the collapse of the Debenham’s department store chain and wider impact on the department store sector as a whole, it was clear there was no demand for a like-for-like replacement to this iconic and popular Belfast store. We carefully considered with the landlord the future opportunity this key piece of real estate presented, given its strategic positioning to the primary entrance to CastleCourt with added benefit of extensive frontage to Royal Avenue. This led to the ultimate repurposing of the space and we targeted a mix of leisure uses to complement the retail offer within the centre and ensure its relevance and hierarchy, integral to shape Belfast’s retail core and future offering.

“We are delighted to announce the approved redevelopment plans to accommodate Omniplex’s latest multi-screen cinema concept and the family entertainment and adventure scheme, which will bring a new dimension of fun and excitement to make CastleCourt the destination for shopping, eating, socialising and entertaining.”

For further information on available opportunities within CastleCourt interested parties should contact joint agents Savills and CBRE NI.

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