Disused units at Lisburn Square could become part of a hotel development under ambitious plans being considered by the owners of the site.
Other ideas being mooted with the aim of rejuvenating the city centre “retail and leisure destination” include plans for the creation of serviced office accommodation.
Questions have been raised about the future of the site following the recent closure of Next and Flipping Crepes - and other key tenants such as Argos and Alfredo’s on the Square last year - which have left around half the retail units empty.
But the owners of the site, Marcol, have stressed that they are “fully committed to the rejuvenation of Lisburn Square as both a retail and leisure destination.”
“We are disappointed with the closure of any unit but have known for some time that both Argos and Next were coming to the end of their existing leases and had invested heavily in premises at Sprucefield. Accordingly we have used the opportunity to take back both premises and focus on alternatives including a hotel and serviced office accommodation,” a spokesperson said.
“At the same time we are progressing other leisure possibilities which would support our existing tenants in terms of increasing footfall and expanding the night-time economy.
“As part of Marcol’s continued commitment we have recently completed the construction of seven new luxury apartments within the Square which will shortly be marketed for sale and complement the 45 existing apartments that are already occupied.
“We are grateful for the continued support of the council and it’s Economic Development and Regeneration Department and will continue to work closely with them in relation to Lisburn Square.”
When asked for more information about the potential hotel development, a spokesman for Marcol said they had “no further comment at this moment.”
Agents for Lisburn Square, CBRE, said there are “a number of exciting projects” being progressed at the site.
“There are continued efforts to try and add to a developing tenant mix and although disappointing to have experienced closures, we are confident that the Square is in a better position moving forward than before our involvement.
“There are a number of exciting projects taking place currently that will further strengthen the Square’s position within Lisburn city centre,” a spokesman said.
Describing Lisburn Square as “a prime retail location”, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council said it is working in partnership with Marcol to promote and market the site.
“The council is supportive of Marcol’s ambition for Lisburn Square and is encouraged by their investment in our area and their ongoing commitment of expanding into new markets such as office space and seeking full occupancy,” a spokesperson said.
Stressing that significant efforts are being made to attract businesses to Lisburn Square, and boost the wider city centre economy, the council spokesperson added: “Through the council’s ambitious Investment Programme the council provides opportunities for Marcol, and other developers based in the council area, to promote Lisburn Square to potential investors and developers on a UK-wide basis. This has included Marcol’s Senior Management supporting the council’s attendance at MIPIM - the UK’s largest property and investment conference - and promoting their offering at ‘Lisburn Castlereagh’ showcase events.
“Representatives from Marcol regularly attend the council’s business and investment networking events including the annual ‘Lisburn Castlereagh at Westminster’, hosted by the council in partnership with Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP. This event aims to bring local companies and developers in front of potential investors meet with the aim of further investment in our local economy.
“In addition to the council’s Investment Programme any businesses setting up or relocating to Lisburn Square are entitled to a complete package of business support from the council, ranging from city centre promotional campaigns to business growth programmes and training.”
In May 2015 the Ulster Star reported how representatives of a leading hotel development company had visited the city to look at potential sites for a boutique hotel and a larger hotel.
At that time, Lagan Valley MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said new hotels would be a significant boost for the local economy and would help to attract even more visitors to the city.
• Read related story - Next says decision to shut up shop in Lisburn Square taken as lease had ended