A former linen warehouse in Northern Ireland that is central to the region’s history is being considered for massive renovations, drawing the ire of those who wish to preserve its legacy.
According to the Belfast Telegraph, a proposal has been made to alter and refurbish the Ewarts Linen Warehouse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, into a modernized office building. While it currently acts as a glimpse into the region’s manufacturing past, the renovation plan aims to turn the building into something that reflects the current culture of the city.
The Ewarts Linen Warehouse, a four-story building that has been dormant for two decades, was completed in 1869. Historian Jonathan Bardon describes the iconic structure as “confidently expressing what was at that time Belfast’s world dominance in the linen trade.”
Belfast was considered the linen capital of the world by the end of the 19th century, and the Ewarts Linen Warehouse was a primary factor in the market’s regional growth. However, a recent shift in local industrial trends put the building on the “at-risk” register in 2003.
Despite a global trend away from manufacturing in general, linen is still one of the more in-demand fabrics around the world, used in everything from clothing to household items like linen bed sheets. Experts note its resistance to static electricity and high heat conductivity as reasons that consumers of all backgrounds continue to seek organic linen over cotton or silk.
Since the warehouse no longer produces linen, local developers have been plotting ways to convert the building into a profitable entity for quite some time. Now, development firm Bedford Street Properties is proposing refurbishment and extension of the building to provide office accommodation with basement car parking.
The Ulster Architectural Heritage Society (UAHS) has expressed concern with how the building will be treated as sections of the structure may have to be demolished for the new development, citing that it may have a “negative impact on the wider Linen Conservation Area“.
According to Planning Portal, the Linen Conservation Area in Belfast is considered important for its historical and architectural heritage, playing a crucial role in the social and economic development of linen trade in the area which sparked the growth of Belfast. The Ewarts Linen Warehouse is one of the most notable landmarks in the Linen Conservation Area.
The UAHS went on to say that the proposal “appears unsympathetic to remaining characteristics in design, form, materials, techniques and detailing.” The plan will be considered by the Belfast City Council’s planning committee in December.