A year on from the fire which devastated trade in Belfast city centre, Primark said they are pleased with the progress in restoring its flagship store in Belfast and reducing the cordon around the site.
Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary since an accidental fire burned for three days, destroying much of Bank Buildings.
Around 14 businesses in the immediate vicinity were forced to close, some of them never to reopen, as a security cordon was put in place.
Commenting a year on from the fire, Retail NI chief executive Glyn Roberts said the crisis has shown “just how resilient city centre traders really are”.
He welcomed progress in rejuvenating the area around Bank Buildings and called for “bold, radical and new vision” for a 21st century city centre.
Mr Roberts said: “While the fire was a terrible tragedy, the one positive from it was that it has turbo charged a new debate amongst consumers, traders and political leaders about what type of city centre we want for the future. Looking to the future it has to be more inclusive, accessible and more family-friendly for shoppers and tourists.”
He added: “In our discussions with government, Retail NI will continue to lobby for a wider city rejuvenation fund to make this radical new vision a reality.”
A Primark spokesperson said the retailer wanted to thank its Belfast team and everyone who has contributed to the recovery and restoration process over the past year.
They said: “We have been committed since the fire to ensuring the welfare of our Primark colleagues, meeting our commitments to our neighbours and the wider community and trading again in Belfast city centre.
“We recognise that Bank Buildings holds significance for the local community in Belfast and we are pleased with the progress made to the building restoration project so far.
“We continue to work with Belfast City Council and other stakeholders to expedite this process. Our proposal of application notice to the council to begin the reconstruction work is progressing and we continue to be fully engaged in the planning application process.
“Since the fire we have significantly reduced the size of the cordon which opened access back into the city at Castle Junction, Castle Street, the area around Donegall Place and the corner of Fountain Street.
“We made a £500,000 donation to Belfast City Council’s City Recovery Investment Programme and have also restored our trading presence in the city centre with our Castle Street and Donegall Place stores.
“We will continue to engage with stakeholders and to assist the HSENI’s investigation into the cause of the fire.”