£2.5m vision to transform key site in South Belfast

A HISTORIC South Belfast iconic building is to be transformed into luxury accommodation in a £2.5 million project. Regency House in Upper Crescent, off University Road, has been bought by Aurient Ltd, run by entrepreneurs Anthony Kieran and Cecil Hetherington, best known for their popular digital platform, UsedCarsNI.com

The Regency, an 8,000sq ft hospitality venture, will consist of six luxury apartments along with one communal garden and two private outdoor courtyards and will open its doors later this summer. It follows their recent purchase of  14 Lower Crescent, off Botanic Avenue, with the intention to create seven apartments that will appeal to young professionals, mature students, doctors and nurses, who are looking for long-term rental options in an upcoming and reinvigorated part of town.

Aurient Ltd has called on the knowledge and skills-base of several local suppliers to restore Regency House to its former glory, including architect Gerry Rogers, builder Noel Savage and interior designer, Orla Higgins, employing 50-plus people during the construction phase as well as procuring furniture, antiques and kitchen and bathroom products from local companies such as Wilson’s Yard, David Scott, Soaks and Lurgan-based Alwood Kitchen Supplies. 

Anthony Kieran of Aurient Ltd said: “The area itself, adjacent to the iconic Queen’s University building, has tons of potential in terms of architectural heritage, day and night-time economy and green urban spaces. It has long been crying out for regeneration.  “We hope this venture will truly breathe new life, not just into Regency House as it was formerly known, but to both Upper and Lower Crescents, creating a new public space for the city’s Queen’s Quarter which visitors and residents can enjoy once more. 

“We spotted an opportunity to convert these two adjacent derelict buildings and create six luxury apartments. Belfast in recent years has become a desirable visitor destination and with the upward trend for first class luxury accommodation for the long and short term rental market, we feel this is the right direction to go. “The properties will be finished to a very high standard and will appeal to people of all walks of life who may want a regular home-from-home option that feels more personal than a hotel, but still offers the luxury amenities of one.  

“Upper Crescent has always been an area of personal interest to me. When we first started our business in 2003, I would drive or walk through the Crescent and remarked often at the amazing feats of architecture before me and how unfortunate it was that they had been derelict for so long.  When the option came to buy them several years ago, we weighed it up and decided it was a risk worth taking, even though we had never invested in commercial property before, let alone a restoration project. 

“Our group of companies is very much immersed in the fast-changing world of technology, so perhaps it is natural that we are drawn towards these beautiful old buildings, which with care and attention will be enjoyed for generations to come. “We are thrilled to be embarking on such an exciting regeneration project and we hope The Regency will play a huge part in restoring Upper and Lower Crescent to its former glory. The Regency will be a great addition to the city’s bountiful hospitality offering and we hope, something residents of the surrounding areas can be proud of once again.”

Local businessman David Gavaghan welcomed news of the re-development. “It is just wonderful to see following decades of decline and decay that the building will be restored and even better, people are going to live in them,” he said. “It will bring vitality back to the heart of Belfast which is probably one of the most important things we can do in the next decade.

“I think it’s fantastic.”