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Belfast City

Linen Quarter BID Pioneers City’s First Parklet

Chris McCracken, MD of LQ BID, Minister Mallon MLA and Lord Mayor Cllr Kate Nicholl.

Linen Quarter BID has pioneered the Belfast City Centre’s first parklet, in conjunction with partners from Belfast City Council, the Department for Communities and the Department for Infrastructure. The 10 metre parklet, located on the corner of Linenhall Street and Clarence Street, was officially launched today by DFI Minister Nichola Mallon MLA and Belfast Lord Mayor, Cllr Kate Nicholl, alongside Peter Johnston, Director of BBC Northern Ireland and Chris McCracken, MD Linen Quarter BID.  

The parklet is a green oasis in the heart of the city, offering tremendous views of City Hall. The development provides an enjoyable social space and promotes the contemporary city environment that citizens have come to demand.

Linen Quarter BID is a not-for-profit business improvement district, that focuses on the long-term regeneration of the Linen Quarter area. The parklet represents one part of a £600,000 initiative to improve and enhance outdoor social spaces across the area, as part of the NI Executive Revitalisation Programme administered by Belfast City Council.

Minister for Infrastructure, Nichola Mallon MLA, commented: “Since becoming Minister I have made clear my desire to change the way we use our roads and streets and make sure they work for the whole community.  This new parklet is an outstanding example of how we can transform our public realm to offer thoughtful spaces that reflect the needs of people today.  I have an ambition to significantly increase opportunities for active and sustainable travel, to give everyone the freedom and confidence to be able to walk, wheel or cycle in our city safely so I am pleased that the parklet provides new bike racks as this will support more people to cycle into the city for work or leisure. 

“My Department will be working with Linen Quarter BID over the coming months to review additional cycling storage provision in Belfast.  This beautiful new green space will be enjoyed by tourists too.  I am delighted that my Department was able to support this innovative initiative and I look forward to seeing residents and visitors putting it to good use.”

The parklet, which is free for people to utilise, boasts a steel safety frame, non-slip composite wood boards and enhanced planting within a contemporary design. It provides cycle storage along with 15 seating spaces for public use – three of which are connected to an innovative outdoor work bench, facilitating a contemporary mobile work environment, whilst 12 seats are focused on providing opportunities for tourists and locals to socialise.

Outdoor Spaces Reimagined

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Kate Nicholl, commented: “It’s more important than ever that we think about how we use our outdoor spaces; this parklet is a great example of how an area can be reimagined and the aesthetic changed to create a welcoming, vibrant space in the heart of the city centre for those who work and live here, and for those visiting the city.

“We’re working with Department for Infrastructure and Department for Communities to roll out the next phase of A Bolder Vision – a wide-reaching vision that will significantly transform Belfast city centre. The parklet is a great example of that vision in action, reflecting the values and goals of A Bolder Vision, re-thinking how the city’s streets and places are used offering new opportunities to connect. We look forward to collaborating with Linen Quarter BID on the innovative developments it will introduce throughout the year.”

Enhanced planting throughout the parklet also extends to include hedging and flowers at the front and rear of the historic Thomas Thompson Fountain, providing a more pleasant urban experience in this busy pedestrian area, whilst also drawing more attention to the Victorian heritage of Belfast’s built environment.

Director of BBC Northern Ireland, Peter Johnston, said: “We have just announced plans that will make Broadcasting House more welcoming and accessible. We know the difference that the built environment can make for people who work in an area or are visiting it. And we are delighted that our plans are complemented by initiatives like this – and the wider transformation that is taking place within the city’s Linen Quarter.”

Linen Quarter BID partnered with local contractors to bring its vision of the parklet to life including Decking NI, McQuillan Companies, and Cameron landscapes.

Innovative Representation

Chris McCracken, Managing Director of Linen Quarter BID, said: “The parklet is an innovative representation of our understanding of the post-pandemic world and the on-going demand for outdoor shared places where people can safely socialise and enjoy their city. A recent public consultation we carried out revealed that 91% of people are in support of the removal of car parking spaces, if doing so enhances pavement space and pedestrian areas, so this is a true reflection of the progress people want to see.

“To restore economic vitality to Belfast, we need to create a public realm that is focused on health and well-being and the parklet has been well thought out to ensure it contributes to how the diverse demographics of our city live their lives. We have ensured it incorporates opportunities to work and socialise, all against a background of enhanced greenery.

“We are delighted to work in partnership with the Department for Infrastructure, Department for Communities and Belfast City Council to deliver projects that will continue to meet the city’s aspirations. Over the summer, we will be installing a Boardwalk at Linenhall Street which will extend service opportunities for hospitality businesses, enhanced lighting in Blackstaff Square, and new planting right across the Linen Quarter. Our largest project, a new social hub at Brunswick Street, will include a container café, open air seating, an outdoor stage and games area, creating an entertainment hub for families, friends and tourists to enjoy.”

For more information on upcoming developments across the Linen Quarter, please visit linenquarter.org.

Belfast City

Belfast Woman Set To Star In RTE’s Super Garden Show Tonight

Belfast woman Mary Anne Farenden, 29, is set to appear in episode three of RTE’s popular horticulture show ‘Super Garden’ tonight Thursday May 5.

The architect graduate, artist and singer joins four other budding designers from across Ireland who are battling it out to secure a coveted garden spot at Ireland’s leading garden festival, Bord Bia’s ‘Bloom’. 

This year’s series sees the designers transform Riverside in Kells, a new social housing development built by Meath County Council where they will each be given an identical plot in the estate as their blank canvas to create a spectacular show garden for the residents.

The self-employed creative described how her love for design started at a young age despite growing up in a household of engineers: “I would say I have been artistic since I can remember. I loved making little spaces and one thing my mum always said was I would make little nests. 

“I think with most of the family being engineers, they need to solve problems and you can’t help but absorb it but I knew from an early age I wasn’t a mathematical person.

“When I finally got the house I’m in now I had a little yard and it was like the Garden of Eden. It was concrete with an oil tank but it was outside space. I enjoyed trying to create the perfect little haven in the middle of an alleyway.”

Mary Anne currently is a small business owner of Mary Anne Designs and Chalkboard Art Belfast creating bespoke illustrations for restaurants throughout Belfast.

In terms of design, Mary Anne takes inspiration from a broad range of gardens including cottage, fairy woodland and zen gardens and loves to create her own unique blend of them all.

With only five weeks and a budget of €15,000 to bring her idea to life, Mary Anne described how ‘blood, sweat and tears’ went into making the show garden for the Devine family who have three young children and two dogs.

“It was extremely hard work and 100% blood sweat and tears went into it. Most days I was there from 9 to 11 at night just working right up until the very last moment” she explained.

Tonight’s episode showcases Mary Anne’s ‘Enchanted Playland’ design which combines natural woodland and suburbia.

Packed full of unique touches from a willow lined gravel path leads to a log playhouse surrounded by toadstools, Mary Anne hopes to win over the family with her fairy inspired design.

Under the canopy of trees, Mary Anne has included a tyre climbing frame, swing and slide to please the young children.

The adults also haven’t been forgotten with Mary Anne creating a timber decking that leads directly from the house to a picnic bench and table under a wooden pergola with a protective Perspex roof perfect for summer socialising.

However, not only does Mary Anne have to win over the residents, her designs have to capture the attention of Super Garden’s acclaimed judges, Gary Graham, Monica Alvarez and Brian Burke who each have years of horticulture experience worldwide.

Tune in tonight at 8:30pm on RTE to see if Mary Anne can pull off a Bloom worthy garden and impress the nation.

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Belfast City

Basic Services Need To “Keep Up” With Current & Projected Developments In Cathedral Quarter Says BID Manager

The manager of the Cathedral Quarter Business Improvement District has called statutory agencies in the city to re-consider the impact of a thriving and growing Cathedral Quarter on baseline service provision.

Damien Corr, CQ BID manager, said: “There is a growing feeling among businesses in the cathedral quarter that we may be overlooking the basics such as street cleansing, lighting and the upkeep of the general infrastructure of the area as we look to develop our city to reach its full potential among its regional and international peers. 

“For example the UU campus is set to welcome over 15,000 people in September of this year…that’s like dropping the population of Armagh into the area.

“We currently have around 3,500-4,000 students now living in the cathedral quarter as well as more student accommodation developments planned.

“Notwithstanding the current cost of living rises, we are beginning to see a more optimistic and confident outlook among many of our businesses. Within the last year 10 new businesses have opened up in the Cathedral Quarter, with another six looking good for the next 12 months and five longer term major developments in the pipeline.”

Within the last year the cathedral quarter has welcomed the opening of Lebanese food outlet Deerah, Neighbourhood cafe, Never Never mens clothing, The Academy restaurant at the university, Cathedral Pizza on Donegall Street and a number of other businesses such as The Quarter by Warren tourism accommodation. 

Cathedral Quarter BID Chair Les Hume said: “The business community have voted with their feet and are investing in our area but they want assurance that at the very least our public realm will be fit for purpose when people return. 

“We are committed to working in partnership with business and statutory partners to ensure that streets are safe, clean and welcoming…these baseline services should be a given, he said.

In a 2021 survey commissioned by CQ BID, 90% of respondents cited increased footfall as a key target.

Since then the BID has part-funded events such as Tumble Circus’ Winter Circus, The Belfast Children’s festival, The Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Festival of Fools and Hit the North. 

Damien explained that these initiatives have brought “tens of thousands of visitors back to Cathedral Quarter”.

He added: “We readily acknowledge the support provided by Belfast City Council, PSNI, Department for Communities and Department for Infrastructure in preparing the area for  events to take place and clearing up afterwards. 

“We fund these events to act as a catalyst to encourage people to come back to the Cathedral Quarter and our feedback and subsequent evaluation show that visitors enjoy and feel safe at these events.

“More needs to be done to encourage all visitors to come to the cathedral quarter and to feel safe and welcome whilst doing so.

“This is why baseline services such as street cleansing, lighting and the upkeep of the general infrastructure of the area must remain consistent, not just when events are happening or when someone makes a formal complaint.”

Last month following a series of complaints made by local businesses a meeting was organised by the Business Improvement District where all group party leaders at Belfast City Council were invited to send a representative to speak with the businesses and hear their concerns.

“Unfortunately only Alderman Jim Rodgers (UUP), of the eight parties invited, turned up on the day (SDLP and Green Party gave apologies – the other five did not acknowledge the invite or subsequent reminders)” said Damien.

“The businesses who took time out of their busy schedules commended Alderman Rodgers but were disappointed to say the least with the other parties’ failure to attend.

“We need political support and leadership to ensure that these baseline services are delivered consistently across the city centre which will in turn provide a good foundation for the City’s key strategies to build upon.

“The Cathedral Quarter BID is committed to working in partnership with elected representatives, Statutory agencies and other sector organisations. We are now calling on our councillors to engage meaningfully with city centre ratepayers.”

For more information about the Cathedral Quarter or CQ BID go to cathedralquarterbelfast.com   

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