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George Best and Crumlin Road courthouse inspire new hotel plans for Belfast

A Liverpool developer is planning five new hotels in Belfast over the next two years - including one inspired by Manchester United and Northern Ireland football legend George Best.

Crumlin Road courthouse

by John Mulgrew

Lawrence Kenwright said they have the potential to bring 500 jobs to the city. And he revealed that he had been eyeing up a famous landmark as a possible site for one of the five projects.

“We’ve been after the Crumlin Road courthouse for some time. We see that as the last building and the last piece in the jigsaw for Belfast,” he said.

Mr Kenwright’s company Signature Living is close to securing two buildings in Belfast, but a location for the George Best hotel hasn’t been decided.

He said it will follow the template of his Shankly Hotel in Liverpool, which is based on the Anfield club’s legendary manager.

He explained: “We are using the knowledge that we have gleaned from the Shankly Hotel. Every room has a story of an individual that knew him. It’s about unearthing those stories… not so much the main life stories that everyone knows. This is about the stories you don’t know about.”

The hotel could boast up to 100 rooms, he added. The idea has the backing of Best’s family.

“They have signed a contract with us. They love it,” Mr Kenwright said. “They have been to the Shankly Hotel.” He currently owns a number of hotels in his home city.

There are now around 20 new hotels at various stages of development across Belfast. Asked whether he believed there was enough demand here, Mr Kenwright responded: “In Liverpool, in 2008, we started off our business.

“Liverpool had 2,400 beds and now there are 9,000 beds. I see Belfast in the same place. I think Belfast has the capability of being a bigger tourist destination than Liverpool. I don’t think it is now – but it could be in the future.”

As regards his plans for the other four hotels, he said: “We have one iconic building which is truly amazing.

“And another hotel, which is going to be more of a Signature Living hotel. We are hoping in that five, for one to be the Crumlin Road courthouse.”

He added that he envisaged rooms in the hotels costing around £55 per person, per night.

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