Belfast's Grand Central Hotel opens for business
Report by Cara McGimpsey
The doors to Nothern Ireland's newest hotel have now opened for business.
The opening of Belfast's Grand Central Hotel has taken place on Wednesday 20th June.
It has opened six months after the founder of the group, Sir William Hastings, died at the age of 89.
After two years of construction and development, Belfast's skyline has seen a substantial change as the former Windsor House transformed into the 23-storey tower that stands today - with its Seahorse logos and shimmering charcoal panels visible across the city.
The project from Hastings Hotels cost a total of £53 million, making it the most expensive in Northern Ireland.
With 300 bedrooms, the Grand Central is the latest in Northern Ireland's rapidly expanding hotel scene.
Only certain sections of the venue opened on Wednesday, with the entire building to be completed by the end of the summer, including the Observatory Bar, which will offer a panoramic view of the city from the 23rd floor.
The hotel also features a ground floor café and a restaurant overlooking Bedford Street.
Ahead of its opening, Stephen Meldrum, General Manager said, “We are delighted to open the doors of the Grand Central Hotel and see the vision of our late Chairman, Sir William Hastings, be fully recognised. The Grand Central Hotel is a really unique proposition for Belfast.
"No detail has been overlooked and we are excited to bring a new era to the city. The teams have been working hard over recent weeks to get the hotel open on time and we are looking forward to welcoming our first guests from the prestigious Hosts Global Forum who are staying with us this week.”
The Grand Central’s personality is further enhanced by its sense of being at the epicentre of all that is Belfast, adopting as it has the Seahorse logo which in turn belonged to the “old” Grand Central Hotel in Royal Avenue.
This Seahorse is most vividly depicted in the hotel’s main restaurant in a specially commissioned eye-catching illustration which deconstructs the official Belfast crest, featuring Chichester’s wolf and the Seahorse and their contribution to the founding of the City.
The original Grand Central Hotel opened in 1893, on Royal Avenue in the city.
It hosted many famous guests, including the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and was also the venue for UTV's launch party in 1959.
The hotel was used as a military base from 1972, when it was taken over by the British Army to patrol the city centre.
Throughout the Troubles, the hotel was attacked more than 150 times by paramilitaries and other groups.
After the hotel was no longer required as a base, it was acquired by developers who demolished the building to make way for Castlecourt shopping centre - which opened in 1990.