An ambitious £21m community regeneration project was opened today on the Lower Newtownards Road by the First Minister and the deputy First Minister. Funded by the Department for Social Development, the EU Peace III Programme, the International Fund for Ireland and East Belfast Mission, the Skainos Project has already created nearly 40 jobs since construction completed in October.
“The project expresses our desire to create genuinely shared space on the Newtownards Road”, said Skainos Director Glenn Jordan, “and to do so with the highest standards of architectural design and construction.” Skainos features the first vertical garden on the island of Ireland as well as a range of community facilities including day nursery, café and an auditorium which will be used by the congregation of East Belfast Mission, which initiated the project.
“We are delighted to say that against all the current economic trends, over 90% of the commercial space in the development has already been filled”, said Mr Jordan.
The Skainos Project involved 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.
Nelson McCausland said “This development is a great boost for the people of East Belfast. I would like to congratulate Skainos Limited, their partners and stakeholders on the completion of such an ambitious, innovative and significant development. The whole 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.
“The Skainos project will help 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 support improvements to health and well being, and improve educational attainment within the wider East Belfast community whilst significantly addressing housing need. I wish it every success.”
Speaking at the official launch event, Pat Colgan, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body, said: “Skainos received over £6 million of funding, from the EU’s PEACE III Programme, it will promote collaborative working from a number of community and voluntary sector agencies to improve the lives of people from all sections of our society.”
Dr Adrian Johnston, Chair of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “Skainos is an exceptional facility that supports the International Fund for Ireland’s objectives of delivering sustainable, long-term positive impacts that can transform communities. As such, the Fund contributed £2.94 million towards this exciting community regeneration project and today we can see the investment become a reality.”
The project, which was twelve years in development, is already a significant feature on a main arterial route, enhancing public realm and bringing significant economic and community activity into the East of the city. The design period included regular neighbourhood consultation and features many references to the industrial heritage of the area.
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