The former hub of shipbuilding in Belfast shrouded in all of its Industrial Age heritage is poised to become a dynamic, new “smart place.” Hailed as one of the largest waterfront regeneration projects in the world and in close proximity to the city centre, I recently took a trip down memory lane to have a look at what has been achieved. I came away satisfied that the promoters are on track to achieve their aim of “redefining what it means to work, live, play and stay in central Belfast”
Under the watchful eye of the twin crane towers – Samson and Goliath, the last visible remnants of the once thriving Harland & Woolf dockyard the enterprise demonstrated by locals of times gone by is being kept alive by a plethora of initiatives. The entire 185 acre site forms part of a master plan formulated in 2005. Progress to date is good and I was impressed by the mix of spaces such as the incubator units of Northern Ireland Science park and more recently the smart re-purposing of the former dockyard Painthall as a modern, digital studio. The latter has had a really good run in attracting business such as Game of Thrones and has recently announced plans for a third studio
The centre-piece for this project is a signature building housing the Titanic exhibition. Walking through this multi- level experience, one cannot fail to appreciate the great sense of history associated with this event which occurred in 1912. I came away tinged with sadness having heard the personal stories of survivors and the chilling Morse code sound recordings. In keeping with most exhibitions of this nature, Titanic offers the usual add-ons of cafes, photo opportunities and merchandising. It was interesting to note that even on a low season Friday afternoon the exhibition has attracted a growing number of visitors from across Europe. Since opening, over 1m visitors have been to take a look.
Having had a close association and interest in Belfast’s regeneration via Laganside Corporation I came away from the city with a strong sense of satisfaction that bodes well for the future…