Plans to make Belfast’s new Grand Central Northern Ireland’s biggest hotel
An artist’s impression of the new Grand Central Hotel
By John Mulgrew
Northern Ireland could get its largest hotel as the Hastings Group seeks to revamp its plans for the new Grand Central is Belfast, it can be revealed. The company is currently stripping out the former Windsor House building on Bedford Street in the city.
The hotel was initially scheduled to have 200 rooms, but it is believed the group is now aiming for 304, which would make it the biggest hotel here.
The £30m four-star complex will transform 23-storey Windsor House in the city centre.
It represents the single biggest investment by family-run Hastings Hotels throughout the company’s history.
It is understood that Hastings and RPP Architects are in the process of preparing revised designs for the redevelopment.
The scheme could include 304 bedrooms, office accommodation, ground floor retail and bar spaces and restaurants at the ground, first and 22nd floors.
It is understood that a community consultation will be held on the proposals soon.
Janice Gault, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Hotels Federation, said: “It will be the biggest hotel, and Hastings are well-versed in the hotel product.
“It’s good to see increased development on a number of projects. Larger hotels are popular with conferences (because they can) have all the delegates in the same place.”
If the plan goes ahead, Hastings will own the two largest hotels in Belfast. Its other location, the Europa, has 272 bedrooms.
No one from the company wished to comment on the revised plans.
However, during the unveiling of the initial proposals last summer, the group said that around 150 staff jobs would be created, along with hundreds of others during construction at the Bedford Street landmark.
Hastings announced it had bought Windsor House last year in a deal worth £6.5m.
Aside from the Europa on Great Victoria Street, Hastings also owns the Stormont Hotel in the east of the city, the Culloden in Cultra, near Holywood, the Everglades in Londonderry, Ballygally Castle on the Antrim coast, and the Slieve Donard in Newcastle, Co Down.
The Grand Central is one of a number of under-construction hotels in Belfast.
MSM Construction has started work on a 179-bed project, which is based at Hope Street and is owned by Andras House, the company run by businessman Lord Rana.
There are also plans for a 206-bedroom development at the former Belfast Metropolitan College building on Brunswick Street, and a Hampton by Hilton hotel. Work is additionally well under way on a £25m Marriott AC hotel, part of the City Quays development. And a four-storey hotel with 17 bedrooms is being built at Bank Square.
Work also began on a hotel at the former Harland & Wolff drawing offices in the Titanic Quarter earlier this year.
However, hotel occupancy levels in Belfast fell by 5% over the past 12 months as the number of places to stay in the city rose even further, according to a PwC survey published in September.