The first sod was cut today of the Skainos Project on the Lower Newtownards Road in East Belfast.
The Skainos Project involves the demolition of a number of buildings to create a purpose built, flagship development specifically designed to serve the needs of the wider East Belfast community.
In addition to providing a supported housing development in the form of the replacement for Hosford House Hostel, the multi-use facility will deliver:
· social housing,
· a college/training centre,
· seminar rooms,
· youth centre,
· day-care crèche,
· mixed tenure apartments,
· commercial retail units,
· office accommodation,
· multi-purpose hall, and
· a social economy kitchen and café.
Alex Attwood said “This development will alleviate dereliction along a major arterial route providing a significant opportunity to reinvigorate and revive the area, delivering real change in one of Belfast’s most deprived areas. It will provide support to improvements to health and well being, and improve educational attainment within the wider East Belfast community whilst significantly addressing housing need.
"Importantly the construction phase will provide much needed jobs and training opportunities."
Minister Attwood continued: “I would like to congratulate Skainos Limited, their partners and stakeholders on the start of the construction of such an ambitious and innovative project for East Belfast.
“The decline of Belfast’s traditional industries such as ship building and engineering has led to a decline in economic prosperity in this area of the city. Pound for pound across government funding urban regeneration makes sense, helps business, creates footfall and builds jobs. The Skainos project is an example of how deprivation can be addressed and regeneration stimulated by bringing together the public, private and community sectors in a partnership approach.”
Rev Dr Gary Mason, Superintendent of East Belfast Mission and Chair of Skainos Ltd said: "This event marks the culmination of more than 10 years of work to bring Skainos to this point. We are delighted to be playing our part in the transformation and renewal of East Belfast and in the creation of new shared space for all communities here. The new facility will provide ideal space for organisations like East Belfast Mission to continue its vital work in the community"
Commenting on the EU funded project Shaun Henry, Director of the Managing Authority within the Special EU Programmes Body, which manages the PEACE III Programme, said: “Upon completion this project will create a new shared space where people from all communities can come together in a safe and neutral environment. It will also help to regenerate an area of Belfast which has experienced many of the negative effects of the conflict and suffered from a historic lack of investment. This is one of the core objectives of the EU’s PEACE III Programme as it seeks to reclaim public spaces for use by all sections of the community. In doing so it will encourage greater levels of peace and reconciliation across Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland.”
Anne Henderson, Board Member of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “The International Fund for Ireland has contributed nearly £3million towards this exciting community regeneration project in East Belfast.
“Community regeneration is about transformation. It is about making places more competitive, more attractive, empowering communities and restoring pride.
“The International Fund for Ireland is keen to support initiatives and interventions, such as this, which will have a lasting impact on individuals and communities long after the Fund ceases to exist. Everyone involved with the Skainos Project is to be congratulated.” Click here to download press release