Primark has announced the full reopening of its Belfast store after a devastating fire four years ago.
The landmark Bank Buildings was destroyed in a fire in August 2018. The blaze took four days to put out and the resulting disruption forced closure of part of the city centre, with retailers facing reduced footfall as a result.
An investigation is continuing into the cause of the fire.
The reopening announcement has been welcomed as a much-needed boost for the city centre.
Glyn Roberts of Retail NI added: "Without a doubt this reopening will be a much-needed boost for the city centre and its traders. This store was always a huge footfall driver for our members in Royal Avenue and the city centre as a whole” ‘Whilst the city centre is experiencing serious challenges at present, its future has huge potential to be a fun, family friendly destination with a dynamic retail and hospitality offering.”
Primark has said it is targeting a reopening date of the first week of November.
"The redevelopment project is part of Primark’s ongoing commitment to investment in Northern Ireland, which includes the re-opening of its Bank Buildings store and the opening of a new Primark store in Rushmere Shopping Centre, Craigavon, later this year," a statement from the company said. "Since the devastating fire in August 2018, it has been Primark’s ambition to restore the iconic Bank Buildings original structure and re-open it as a flagship store in Belfast.
"It has been a complex redevelopment, spanning four years of retention, demolition and re-building the site, but works at this historic building are now finally nearing completion." The company said the new store will be 76% bigger than the previous shop. It will include a new cafe and a nail bar.
Primark’s existing store on Castle Street will merge with the restored Bank Buildings site to create the new larger store. As part of this, the smaller Primark store at Fountain House, Donegall Place will close in the days before the Bank Buildings re-opening, with all employees transferring back to the new store. Paul Marchant, Primark chief executive, said: “We want to thank the people of Belfast for their ongoing support and patience whilst we undertook the extensive re-building works at our iconic Bank Buildings site.
"We recognise how much the business community and wider city of Belfast has been affected by the devastating fire at our store back in 2018. We have put our heart and soul into retaining, conserving and restoring this much-loved historical building. We are nearly there with this re-development, and we cannot wait to finally re-open the doors and welcome our customers and our colleagues back into our Bank Buildings store.” Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Tina Black, added: “This is a major investment in Belfast city centre after a challenging time for our local economy. The devastating fire at Bank Buildings in 2018 was a turning point for our city; it acted as a springboard in bringing elected members and city partners together to examine and trial new ideas and concepts to support recovery and regeneration and increase what the city centre has to offer.
"Many of these projects have now been incorporated into our Future City Centre programme."
She added: "This has been a long and complex restoration project, and local traders and shoppers have shown great patience and resilience. We hope the opening of Primark’s extended flagship store will provide a major boost to businesses, particularly in the run-up to the busy Christmas season.”
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