No­to­ri­ous for­mer UDA lair will be de­mol­ished to make way for 38 flats

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY RYAN McALEER

ONE of Belfast’s most in­fa­mous pubs has been ear­marked for de­mo­li­tion ahead of a £1.75m de­vel­op­ment that will see 38 new apart­ments built on the site.

The Bunch of Grapes on the Beers­bridge Road was for many years syn­ony­mous with th eU D A.

Once owned by so-called ‘bri­gadier’ Jim Gray, the pub was the scene of the mur­der of for­mer UDA leader Jim Craig, who was ex­e­cuted by his own or­gan­i­sa­tion in 1988.

Loy­al­ist Ge­ordie Legge was also tor­tured and mur­dered in­side the bar in 2001.

A UDA me­mo­rial still sits next to the rear of the old pub.

More re­cently, the bar was re­branded as the Ibrox Bar, then again to the Eye-brox Bar, but it fell into dis­re­pair and was ef­fec­tively re­pos­sessed in 2013.

It was even­tu­ally sold to Em­pire Hold­ings Ltd in 2015.

On Mon­day the com­pany was granted plan­ning ap­proval to de­mol­ish the va­cant bar along with an­other ad­join­ing derelict build- ing at 70-72 Beers­bridge Road to make way for a ma­jor new mixed-use de­vel­op­ment. The new build­ing will also ex­tend over an ad­ja­cent brown­field site, which was most re­cently used as a com­mu­nity gar­den.

The com­plete project in­volves 33 sin­gle-bed­room apart­ments, five two-bed apart­ments and two re­tail units, in­clud­ing an off-li­cence.

The de­vel­op­ment has been de­signed by Belfast ar­chi­tec­tural firm C60 Ltd.

Di­rec­tor at the firm Alan Ritchie said de­spite the build­ing’s his­tory, the project rep­re­sented “a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity” due to the high de­mand for res­i­den­tial ac­com­mo­da­tion on the pe­riph­ery of the city cen­tre. “We have other clients who will hap­pily buy this off the de­vel­oper in so much that they are look­ing for things that are slightly less risk and have plan­ning in place.”

He said a re­cent apart­ment project in nearby Tem­ple­more Av­enue had sold ex­tremely well.

“There is a lot of ac­tiv­ity among peo­ple who are look­ing to get sites like this with plan­ning per­mis­sion, who will then de­velop it,” Mr Ritchie added.

While he ac­knowl­edged that the for­mer pub had an un­pleas­ant rep­u­ta­tion, he in­sisted the new de­vel­op­ment rep­re­sented an at­trac­tive prospect for young pro­fes­sion­als. “You’re in walk­ing dis­tance of the city cen­tre,” he said.

“Some peo­ple want that prox­im­ity to walk into town — they don’t want to own a car. These units are in high de­mand.”

The ar­chi­tect said the project had been warmly wel­comed by lo­cal elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“They want the area to be brought up and they want the area to im­prove,” he ex­plained.

“See­ing that peo­ple are pre­pared to in­vest £1.75m into their area, it makes them feel that some­thing is hap­pen­ing.

“I think this de­vel­op­ment has the po­ten­tial to be a fan­tas­tic cat­a­lyst for that area.”

The in­fa­mous Bunch of Grapes pub in east Belfast

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