Good to see some progress regarding the plans to restore the currently derelict Drawing Offices at the former Harland and Wolff headquarters, where the Titanic was designed. A £4.9 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) will enable The Titanic Foundation Ltd. to restore the building, unlocking plans to transform the site into a luxury Four Star hotel.
The Harland and Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices on Queen’s Island in Belfast were the control centre for the largest shipyard in the world. It was here that Belfast workers created and designed over 1,000 ships including the White Star Olympic Class Liners – Olympic, Titanic and Britannic and naval warships such as HMS Belfast. The Harland and Wolff building has been vacant since 1989 and has been considered ‘at risk’ for almost a decade.
The restoration of the B+ listed building into an 84-bedroom boutique hotel has the potential to create over 100 local jobs. The Lottery grant will specifically focus on developing the two historical drawing offices as spaces for public use. The boutique hotel will also tell the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage, focusing on the authentic spaces – Board Room, Telephony Room and Entrance Lobby – as well as the fixtures and fittings that relate to the local shipbuilding industry.
The grant has been awarded through HLF’s Heritage Enterprise programme. It is designed to help when the cost of repairing an historic building is so high that restoration simply is not commercially viable.
Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, was delighted with the announcement: “Titanic Foundation in partnership with Titanic Quarter Ltd has been working on this project over the last two years. It has been a long process but worth it. With HLF’s support we will safeguard the drawing offices for future generations and unlock the commercial potential of the entire building as a boutique hotel with heritage at its core. This is a truly unique and authentic project for Belfast that could not have happened without the support from Heritage Enterprise Scheme.”
Head of the Heritage Lottery Fun in Northern Ireland, Paul Mullan, looks at the history of the building where the Titanic was designed:
By the first half of the 20th century, Belfast was one of the world’s most dynamic industrial centres. It was within the walls of Harland and Wolff’s HQ where the leading minds in ship design and engineering broke new ground to produce ships that were the envy of the world.
Sadly, the decline of city’s shipbuilding industry was mirrored in the steady decline of Harland and Wolff’s HQ. Once a symbol of Belfast’s international importance, just over a decade ago it was placed onto Northern Ireland’s buildings at risk register.
But that memory of a dynamic shipyard has awoken in recent years. Today, Titanic Belfast is an incredibly successful tourist attraction. The SS Nomadic, which was built to ferry passengers to and from the Titanic, has been brought back to its former glory and is the highest rated tourism attraction in Belfast. Close by, HMS Caroline is undergoing a transformation from being a forgotten piece of naval heritage into a museum which will tell a story of sea battles from both the First and Second World Wars.
The result is more than one million visitors to the Titanic Quarter each year. With this success comes a return to fortune for the derelict Harland and Wolff HQ. £4.9m from our Heritage Enterprise programme will convert the building into an 83 bedroom hotel, with the potential to create over 100 jobs.
The £27m development will bring much wider economic benefits by bringing more visitors and investment to Belfast. This unique hotel will gives new purpose to an important part of Northern Ireland’s built heritage, building on the Titanic theme of the Quarter whilst providing a stunning setting for visitors.
It also shows how we can use historic buildings creatively, in a way that helps people fully appreciate its past whilst enjoying its present uses and harnessing the collective resolve of both the private and public sector for the benefit of everyone.
We now need to bring this sense of purpose to our many other buildings at risk by challenging not-for-profit groups to partner with commercial operators to bring back into use those buildings which provide us with a direct link to our past.
This isn’t a nice to do but something that has a strong economic and revitalising value. Over two years ago a report on the economic value of Northern Ireland’s historic environment marked out this opportunity, making a strong case for this type of investment. Today, in the Titanic Quarter and across the UK, Lottery money is helping people to realise the untapped potential of our vacant and underused historic buildings.