Iconic Waterfront

From the early settlement located at the point where the River Lagan met the Rivers Farset and Blackstaff, the city of Belfast has a long maritime history. Belfast developed around these rivers, configuring them into culverts, docks, quays and slipways before they become harbour then lough then sea. The area once dominated by shipyards is now one of Europe’s largest waterfront regeneration sites with millions of visitors every year, while the busy Harbour handles millions of tonnes of cargo.

Maritime Belfast is committed to helping the development of the city’s historic waterfront as a place for everyone to enjoy. We work with a range of local organisations including Belfast Harbour, Belfast City Council and Titanic Quarter Limited, national bodies such as Tourism NI and Arts Council for Northern Ireland as well as key government departments including the Department for Community, Department for Economy, Department for Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, and the Department for Infrastructure. We also engage with local businesses to stimulate networking, collaboration and destination clustering.

We continually review the many strategies and policies that impact on the development of the city’s waterfront and look to other maritime cities such as Hamburg, Amsterdam and Copenhagen to learn lessons from others.

Read about our Best Practice Study trips here.

Connecting the Waterfront

One of our key priorities is to influence the development of this public realm as a seamless, vibrant, connected experience – to establish a shared vision across all stakeholders and influencers. We have kickstarted this process with the development of the Maritime Mile and have also established a Waterfront Task Group to look at how Belfast’s waterfront area can fully realise its potential.

Over the past few years, we have commissioned several reports including the Titanic Quarter Destination Plan, and the Maritime Mile Development and Animation Strategy. The Maritime Mile strategy included a Toolkit that highlights the retained heritage features, the palette of colours across the area, and recommends approaches for public realm, seating and landscaping.

We also commissioned Turley Associates to undertake an audit of 50 projects that have been submitted to planning over the last ten years or in the process of being submitted. The main findings were that if all these proposals are realised, £1.5 billion will be invested into Belfast’s waterfront area, generating jobs, residents and attract a further 1 million new visitors. Many of these projects will have an element of public realm, and at a minimum level we estimate that over 70,500m2 will be enhanced.

A heritage waterfront

When thinking about all of the developments coming on site or into development, we created Where Belfast Begins – the Maritime Belfast Story plan as a handbook for anyone who has an interest in developing the city’s waterfront and Maritime Mile. The story plan highlights Belfast’s tangible and intangible heritage, and puts a spotlight on some existing best practice interventions that bring Belfast’s maritime story to life.

Our most recent commission was Embracing the Belfast Waterfront, a framework for the waterfront promenade area developed by Danish architects Schulze + Grassov. The framework contains practical design guidance and a toolkit of development options to help balance community, nature, and development. There are plans for new pedestrian and cycle bridges across the Victoria Channel, as well as new public spaces, playgrounds, heritage trails, floating boardwalks, businesses and wetlands, moorings and cantilevered decking. The framework is a generational opportunity to reshape Belfast’s relationship with its waterfront and maximise the area’s potential to provide economic and social benefits for all of Northern Ireland.

Visit our resources section for more of our reports and studies.