We are excited to welcome the Academy of Urbanism Annual Congress to Belfast from 8-10 June.

It is a fantastic opportunity to share our ambitious plans for Belfast – to learn from our international colleagues’ experiences and to see our city afresh through your eyes.

As we emerge from the Covid 19 pandemic, and deal with the myriad of challenges that modern life presents, our cities need to adapt – and quickly. In cities the world over, leaders are exploring how we can collaborate more effectively, shape more authentic experiences, build more resilience and deliver truly inclusive regeneration. 

In Belfast, we are making really positive strides towards achieving these goals, having recently secured the first City Deal for Northern Ireland. It is already proving to be a real gamechanger – unlocking £1bn of investment in innovation, infrastructure, tourism and regeneration, 20,000 new jobs and a decade of opportunity.  

We are delivering A Bolder Vision to create a green, walkable, cyclable network of streets and places and we are working with Innovation City Belfast to make the city a destination of choice for investment in innovation, so that we can increase prosperity and quality of life here. Northern Ireland is already home to over 1,100 international companies, we’re number 1 destination for financial technology investment and number 1 destination for US based cyber tech investment. And the Dublin Belfast Economic Corridor, an active collaboration between local government and university sectors is driving regional growth and development – so we are in great shape to build on FDI.

We have also secured the UNESCO City of Music designation, we are progressing the £100m landmark tourism destination Belfast Stories and we are putting culture centre stage in the city’s place-making journey.

We are focused on getting the right physical, digital and social infrastructure in place to make Belfast a fantastic place for people to live, work, study and visit. Indeed, our Community Plan states that Belfast “…will be a city reimagined and resurgent. A great place to live and work for everyone.” And our Bolder Vision sets out ambitious plans to help shape the city, ensuring that development is brought forward in a cohesive way that delivers sustainable, inclusive economic growth – not only for the city – but for the wider region. 

Right now, our key priority is accelerating city centre living. We have set ourselves a target of attracting 66,000 new residents into the city by 2035. To do that, we are working hard to shape a family and people centric city centre. From a place-making perspective, that means enhancing connectivity between the centre and surrounding communities and providing more welcoming spaces. If we are to be successful, we need to provide an attractive, secure and high-quality environment, with easy access to open, green space, shopping, cultural, educational and leisure amenities for residents. Improving our public realm, food and entertainment offerings and connectivity is just as important as securing appropriate development sites.

We have witnessed record levels of office, hotel and student accommodation take-up since 2015. Despite the pandemic, in 2021, the NI commercial property market recorded its strongest year since 2017, in terms of investment volumes. Merchant Square, city centre was the largest ever office investment deal recorded in Northern Ireland. It’s now home to PWC’s largest office outside London.

We have laid strong foundations for growth. 

We have bold ambitions for our city and people and a wealth of unique investment and development opportunities to offer.  

We hope you will enjoy discovering more about Belfast and see the vast potential it holds for the future.

John Walsh, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council

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