A £60m programme to revitalise the centre of Belfast is to be launched on Tuesday, writes Liam Clarke.
Streets Ahead will include a £500,000 competition for a public art installation in Arthur Square, and new paving, street lighting and urban landscaping. The first phase, to be completed by 2009, will cost £16m, and the cost will rise to £60m over the five to ten year life of the project.
It will be managed by a steering committee including officials from the department of social development, Belfast city council, the chamber of commerce, Translink and the police.
Local people will be asked to select the centrepiece artwork for Arthur Square through a public vote later this year.
"Our aim is to achieve world-class standards in urban design, maintenance and management of the streets at the heart of the city," said Margaret Ritchie, the SDLP's social development minister. "I hope it will make the city centre a more attractive and welcoming place for people to work, shop and visit."
Much of the money will be spent on 14 streets on the northern side of the city centre. They include Ann Street, Arthur Square, Cornmarket, Castle Street and Fountain Street. Work will begin on Tuesday.
Streets Ahead aims to build on the success of the Laganside programme, which revitalised the city's waterfront. It runs in conjunction with other investments in the nearby Cathedral Quarter, where £80m is being spent on a leisure and residential development beside St Anne's cathedral.
Experience shows that public developments have steered the north's property boom, bringing private money in its wake.