The dilapidated offices where plans for the Titanic were drawn up are to be re-opened as part of a £5m (€5.9m) regeneration project.
The future of the historic building that used to house the headquarters and design studios of Harland and Wolff shipbuilders in Belfast has been secured by the Heritage Lottery Fund award.
While the drawing offices will be opened for public use, the majority of the landmark structure is set to be transformed into a luxury Titanic-themed boutique hotel.
The listed building is only yards from where the doomed liner was built and then launched more than a century ago – a site where the popular £90m (€106m) Titanic Belfast visitor attraction now stands.
The announcement is timely as the centre is today hosting a major international investment conference aimed at attracting new business to Northern Ireland.
The red brick headquarters building is one of two Northern Ireland projects to benefit from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s (HLF) new programme – Heritage Enterprise.
The old Northern Counties Club building on Bishop Street in Londonderry, where civic and political leaders used to socialise in years gone by, will also be turned into a hotel with the help of a £784,000 (€924,000) grant.
The programme is designed to tackle “market failure” buildings – where there has been an inability to attract investment or realise commercial potential because the cost of repair has been prohibitive.
The HLF said the Titanic development had the potential to create 109 jobs and the Derry regeneration project 45.
The £5.7m (€6.7m) total investment is part of a UK-wide funding package announced today worth £12m (€14m), which will also see investment in the art deco Globe Theatre in Stockton, the St Peter and the Old Black Lion Pub in Northampton and Merkinch Welfare Hall in Inverness.
In the old Harland and Wolff building the most historically important rooms such as the drawing offices, board room, telephony room and entrance lobby will be developed as spaces for public use, telling the story of Belfast’s industrial heritage.
Nicky Dunn, chairwoman of Titanic Foundation Limited, which is behind the project, welcomed the investment in what she described as a “national icon”.
“We are delighted that our application to HLF’s Heritage Enterprise fund has been successful,” she said.
“The former Harland and Wolff Headquarters Building and Drawing Offices are one of the most authentic and tangible links to narrating Belfast and Northern Ireland’s maritime and industrial heritage.”
Managing director of the Inner City Building Preservation Trust in Derry, Helen Quigley, hailed the boost for the Northern Counties.
“This is an exciting project that will substantially contribute to the renewal of the building and regeneration of the area and is part of our overall investment strategy for projects within the old walled city part of the city centre,” she said.
HLF chief executive Carole Souter explained the aim of the programme.
“Through Heritage Enterprise we have inspired creative new partnerships between social and private enterprise to rescue and return to use some of our most neglected historic buildings,” she said.
“Not only are we safeguarding these wonderful heritage assets, through this investment the local economy will also receive a boost and much-needed new jobs will be created.
“This multi-million pound investment in Northern Ireland’s heritage will enable two iconic local buildings to be brought back to life and have their potential as tourist assets and catalysts for wider regeneration achieved, and we are delighted to be involved.”