Belfast’s flagship Primark store in the city center is due to reopen in time for Christmas, four years after a devastating fire destroyed the building.
The retailer said the new, remodeled five-story store will reopen the first week of November and will be 76% larger than the old store.
In addition to being larger, the upgraded store includes an all-new second-floor Disney Cafe and a new nail and beauty studio.
Although Primark still has a presence on the city centre’s main street, the reopening and restoration of the iconic Bank Buildings marks an important moment for the city, which was so badly affected by the original fire in 2018.
The listed Bank buildings on Avenue Royal were nearly lost to the accidental fire, which burned for three days after starting on August 28 that year.
In a June 2019 report, the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) said a joint investigation with the Health & Safety Executive found the cause of the fire to be “accidental”.
Primark said its “complex” restoration project had restored the building’s original structure, with 88,200 square feet of brand new retail space marking a significant increase from what customers will remember before. .
Their existing store on Castle Street will merge with the restored Bank Buildings site to create the new larger store.
The retailer said that as part of this process, the smaller Primark store in Donegall Place will close in the days before the Bank’s buildings reopen, with all staff moving to the new store.
Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tina Black, said; “This is a major investment in Belfast city center after a difficult time for our local economy.
“The devastating fire at the Bank Buildings in 2018 was a turning point for our city; it served as a springboard to bring elected officials and city partners together to review and test new ideas and concepts to support recovery and regeneration and increasing what the city center has Many of these projects are now part of our Future City Center program.
“It was a long and complex restoration project, and local traders and buyers showed great patience and resilience. We hope the opening of Primark’s expanded flagship store will provide a major boost to business, particularly as the busy Christmas season approaches.
SDLP Councilor Carl Whyte said reopening the store was ‘the key’ to the city center revival.
“The fire, followed by the coronavirus pandemic, have been huge contributors to the decline of Belfast city center which has been much discussed in recent months,” he said.
“Fortunately, we are emerging from the worst of the pandemic, but many businesses are still under pressure due to the cost of living crisis, with further closures likely without significant intervention.
“The reopening of the Bank’s buildings should mark a turning point in our approach to the city center and gives us the opportunity to reimagine it in the future.
“We have the opportunity to make a fresh start, but we need the political will to address these issues and put in place a transformational agenda.”
In March, Primark confirmed it was also set to open its 10th Northern Ireland branch in Craigavon’s Rushmere shopping center later this year.
The reopening of the Belfast store was also welcomed by the City Chamber’s chief executive, Simon Hamilton, who said it would provide a “much needed boost” ahead of the festive period.
‘Primark is an exceptionally popular store that draws footfall from far and wide in Belfast and its loss after the fire nearly four years ago was keenly felt across the city centre,’ Mr Hamilton said.
“It’s a massive vote of confidence in Belfast that Primark is investing so much and coming back bigger and better and I’m sure it will greatly help Belfast in its ongoing recovery and regeneration.”
He also said he would “reopen parts of the city center that have been closed or difficult to access” amid construction work.
Meanwhile, Retail NI said local merchants will feel the benefits of reopening.
“This store has always been a huge traffic driver for our members on Royal Avenue and in the town center as a whole,” said general manager Glyn Roberts.
“While the city center is currently experiencing serious challenges, its future has enormous potential to be a fun, family-friendly destination with a vibrant retail and hospitality offering.”
Paul Marchant, CEO of Primark, added: “We would like to thank the people of Belfast for their continued support and patience as we undertook the extensive reconstruction work at our iconic Bank Buildings site.
“We recognize how the business community and the wider city of Belfast were affected by the devastating fire at our store in 2018.
“We have poured our hearts and souls into conserving, preserving and restoring this much-loved historic building. We are almost there with this redevelopment, and we look forward to finally reopening the doors and welcoming our customers and colleagues back. .in our Bank Buildings store.
Primark store in Belfast Bank Buildings to reopen in time for Christmas four years after devastating fire