SDLP councillor Carl Whyte has said the reopening of Bank buildings later this year is key to the revival of Belfast city centre.
Councillor Whyte was speaking after retailer Primark announced the store will reopen in the first week of November.
He said the reopening of the historic building should serve as the catalyst for the wider redevelopment of the city centre.
Councillor Whyte said:
“It’s hard to overstate the impact the fire at bank buildings nearly four years ago has had on our city centre. It was not just Primark that suffered as a result of this fire, many businesses in the vicinity of Bank buildings were forced to close their doors – some permanently – and both traffic and pedestrians had to be rerouted with significant knock-on effects.
“The fire, followed by the coronavirus pandemic have been huge contributors to the decline of Belfast city centre that has been much discussed in recent months. Thankfully we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic, but many businesses are still being squeezed due to the cost of living crisis, with further closures likely without a significant intervention.
“The reopening of Bank buildings should mark a turning point in our approach to the city centre and provides an opportunity for us to reimagine it going forward. This won’t happen overnight, we need to examine our approach to a range of issues that have contributed to the decline, including increased drug dealing, crime, anti-social behaviour along with more empty retail units and problems with cleanliness. We have an opportunity to grasp a fresh start, but we need political will to address these issues and put a programme of transformation in place.”