An Armagh church has – after a long five-year planning process – had its prayers answered for a brand new home in the heart of the city centre.
While not exactly relocating, Vibe Church, which is currently based out of the Little Barrack Street, have been given the green light to demolish a derelict building on the adjoining Scotch Street in order to build a new community hub.
The former Calverts Tavern pub and Spiders nightclub will be razed to the ground to make way for the new development.
The church received the news this week after planners saw no issue with the proposals on the table.
Two objectors raised concerns over the demolition of a party wall which would leave a nearby business – Armagh Indian Nights – open to the elements and that the length of construction process may hinder their own business.
Concerns were also raised that the demolition would be extremely prejudicial to the character of Scotch Street and that the property in question is in a reasonable state of repair and prime for a restoration programme.
However, Council planners moved to allay those fears by stating it would be necessary to add a condition
prohibiting demolition of the building until contracts have been signed for the approved redevelopment of the site.
Planners say this “will ensure that the building on the site is not demolished until firm plans are in place for the construction of the replacement building”.
They added that they were of the opinion that “the proposed works are a betterment to the current state of the building and would enhance the conservation area”.
The work, which is now expected to begin in the near future, will 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 will have two entrances – the retail unit sits to the left next door to Armagh 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 would 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.
A parking study carried out and forwarded to council took consideration of a busy Friday when it was reported there were 59 on and off street parking spaces available at 10am, 39 at 1pm and 60 at 5pm, when “car parks were becoming less busy as shops were closing”.
And the study’s authors concluded: “There is parking availability throughout the busiest weekday (Friday) to fully meet potential car parking demand of The Vibe proposal, and the assessment is based on primary data of car parking availability.”
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.