The former Calverts Tavern pub and adjoining Spiders nightclub in Armagh could be demolished to make way for a community hub and retail unit, Armagh I can reveal.
Proposals have been drawn up for the development and submitted to Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for consideration.
The vacant premises at the foot of Scotch Street had previously been intended to be restored and refurbished.
But an application by Vibe Church – submitted almost three years ago – has now been withdrawn.
According to that submission, the premises had been intended for “ecclesiastical use”. It was planned to carry out works to the front elevation, as well as internal alterations, together with the construction of a new floor and portal structure to the rear of the existing building.
The application was submitted to ABC Council in March 2019 and would have centred around new church premises and coffee shop.
It attracted two letters of objection, both from the chief executive of the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, who wrote: “The proposal relates to an existing building in the Armagh Conservation Area, number 3 Scotch Street.
“Conservation Areas and the buildings therein are designated in recognition of their architectural and historical significance.
“The building is at a gateway point to Scotch Street and the Conservation Area features in Ulster Architectural Heritage Society’s ‘The Buildings of Armagh’. Described as a ‘three-bay, three-storey, painted brick building; smooth render to ground floor. Original window openings to first and second floors’, it is a building in fair condition, suitable for reuse and restoration, that could benefit greatly from sensitive reintroduction of original Georgian style detailing to further enhance its contribution to the Conservation Area.”
In the correspondence, the UAHS said it was its “serious concern that this application may be for complete demolition”.
That application has now been withdrawn and new proposals have been brought froward this week which would involve complete demolition.
Once again, Vibe – which stands for Vision, Integrity, Boldness and Evangelism – is behind the proposals for the derelict property.
The church is based at 1 Little Barrack Street, to the rear of the former Spiders Nightclub, which itself was to the back of Calverts Tavern, which had an address at 3 Scotch Street.
Vibe is now planning a “mixed use development”.
The proposals, if approved, would see the demolition of the former Calverts Tavern and Spiders Nightclub.
The work would see an “extension to the existing on site church facilities”, together with the creation of a new community hub and retail unit.
The ground floor would have two entrances – the retail unit sits to the left next door to Indian Nights. The right hand side – with a separate opening – would take visitors through a reception and exhibition area. It would, among other things, include toilet provision, a number of multi-purpose rooms, coffee area and ‘break-out’ area.
Armagh limestone will be used to the front of the building on Scotch Street.
On the second floor, there would be three offices, conference room, counselling room, another seated break-out area, additional toilets, main hall and more – and all connected with stairs and lift access.
The third floor would boast a paved terrace, as well as a large teenage games room, next to male and female showers and toilets to the rear.
Vibe started out life in 2006 as a group of young people and adults, but it was not until 2014 that it bought the current premises at Little Barrack Street and April 2015 before it launched.
It did so after extensive fundraising – in the region of £150,000 to both buy and fit-out and develop the current church was required.
A fresh drive for expansion was revealed with the plan to buy the former bar and nightclub, which had a £225,000 asking price at the time.
Calverts Tavern was cleared of old furnishings and fittings in 2017 as Belfast-based Frazer Kidd was employed to market the premises, a thriving nightspot during the 1980s and 90s in particular.
The Spiders Nightclub had been located to the rear of the bar and the ground floor site stretches to over 5,000 sq ft.
This new development would make use of the entire site and bring it back into productive use.
The proposals are due to be publicly advertised next week before being considered in-depth by council planning officials and recommendations brought to committee.