By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The new facade of a landmark Belfast city centre building is finally being unveiled to the public following years of building and restoration work.
The famous front of the Bank Buildings in the city is now once again visible as Primark prepares to reopen its store there later this year.
It follows an extensive four-year restoration project after the building was destroyed by an accidental fire in August 2018.
The red sandstone facade of the Victorian structure has been obscured for years by scaffolding and yellow containers, which are now gradually being removed as work nears completion.
The retail giant has previously said it was targeting the first week of November for the reopening.
The redevelopment work has included demolishing and rebuilding the site in a huge project in the retail heart of the city.
The new store will feature 88,200sq ft of retail space, a Disney cafe on the second floor and a new nail and beauty studio.
Primark’s existing store in Castle Street will merge with the restored Bank Buildings site to create the larger store.
The smaller store at Fountain House, Donegall Place, will close in the days before the Bank Buildings reopening, with all employees transferring to the new store.
Paul Marchant, Primark chief executive, said: “We want to thank the people of Belfast for their ongoing support and patience whilst we undertook the extensive rebuilding works at our iconic Bank Buildings site.
“We recognise how much the business community and wider city of Belfast has been affected by the devastating fire at our store back in 2018.
“We have put our heart and soul into retaining, conserving and restoring this much-loved historical building.
“We are nearly there with this redevelopment, and we cannot wait to finally reopen the doors and welcome our customers and our colleagues back into our Bank Buildings store.”
Retail and business groups also welcomed the planned reopening of the Primark store as a boost for the city.