THE timing of the latest political breakthrough in Northern Ireland could scarcely have been more opportune for the ambitious £5bn Titanic Quarter project in Belfast - Europe's biggest waterfront regeneration project. The NI property market as a whole has already begun to lift off in unprecedented style, with values abruptly surging upwards.
The scale of this exciting Belfast Harbour Commissioners project is dramatically illustrated by the model pictured here - featured in an impressive new magazine showcasing the scheme.
Titanic Quarter's long-term regeneration will see the transformation of 75 hectares of Queen's Island over the next 15 years creating 20,000 new jobs. The first stage comprises 475 apartments by Robinson McIlwaine Architects, based around the Abercorn Basin; the Gateway Office building by Todd Architects; a new campus for the Belfast Institute of Further & Higher Education and a hotel.
The opportunity to redevelop Titanic Quarter came when Harland & Wolff shrank greatly in size - employing a mere 300 people, compared to the 40,000 at its height - abandoning most of the docks and leaving one mile of valuable waterfront development land.
Once more, the area is poised to become the engine room for the city's growth and economic prosperity, while building on and celebrating the maritime history of the area.
Many listed and historic structures will be preserved. The Abercorn Basin will be brought back to life with new quay walls, while the slipways on which RMS Titanic and Olympic were constructed will become the focus of a new visitor attraction (currently known as the "signature project") and the two huge H&W cranes - Samson and Goliath - will continue to dominate the skyline as they have done for years.
The old H&W drawing offices, where Titanic and her sister ships ere conjured up, will become both the offices for Titanic Quarter and a cultural centre.
"Titanic Quarter will have a strong sense of place," Conal Harvey, director of operations at TQ sister company Harcourt Developments in Dublin says. "Although we're making something completely new, it doesn't forget its identity. The heritage projects anchor it to the past."
The overall development is planned to deliver over 5,000 new homes as well as business, leisure, tourism and education facilities.