University of Ulster unveils plans for Belfast campus
The University of Ulster has unveiled its plans for its Belfast campus.
Images of the new £250m development, built around the existing campus in York Street, were released for the first time on Thursday.
The campus will house the 15,000 students and staff who are already based at Jordanstown and Belfast.
University of Ulster Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett confirmed the university would formally submit its planning application later this month.
The new campus will consist of four interlinked buildings at York Street, Frederick Street, and Donegall Street, and will be approximately 75,000 square metres in size - equivalent to the size of Belfast's Victoria Square shopping centre.
Public access to the campus has been given a great deal of attention in the plans and a number of entrances on York Street, York Lane, Frederick Street are included and York Lane, which is currently blocked off, will be reopened to serve as an access route to the city centre.
Professor Barnett said that while the architecture is important, "it is the activity inside it which will ultimately determine the success of this development.
"The University believes education is critical to the economy of the city and the region as a whole. By coming into the city centre, we want to bring education closer to the business community by providing a resource on their doorstep where we can explore and develop innovative ideas and exploit global connections," he said.
"However, as a leading widening-access institution, we are also keen that this campus will open up educational and career pathways to those people from communities which have tended to shy away from university.'Welcome boost'
"The university is proud of the educational, cultural and sporting outreach work it has been engaged in with some of the most deprived communities across Northern Ireland and we will, over the coming years, work with community leaders and political representatives to see how we can build on that success."
The vice-chancellor said that the university recognised that the scale of the development would pose challenges for local infrastructure.
"We are working in partnership with Belfast City Council and a number of government departments including the Department for Social Development to ensure that concerns around student housing, car parking and public transport, public realm and community benefit are addressed," he said.
"We have also embarked on a process of engagement with the local community which has already proven fruitful in identifying issues which the university will address.
"That engagement will continue beyond the construction of this campus because the university wants to be a good neighbour."
The Department for Employment and Learning contributed £16m to the redevelopment.
Employment and Learning Minister, Dr Stephen Farry, welcomed the university's plans.
He said the development would "bring many benefits beyond the university and will be a welcome boost for our construction industry".
"The expansion of the university demonstrates the university's commitment to make a major contribution to the economic, social and cultural vitality of the city," he said.
"One of my department's key goals is to widen participation in higher education, and engaging with communities will be a key element in the University of Ulster's development of its Belfast campus."