£145million of funding has been secured for a major redevelopment of the former St Patrick’s Barracks site in Ballymena.
Mid & East Antrim Borough Council Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told councillors at the main February meeting of the local authority in Ballymena: “That is significant”.
She said she wished to “tip my hat” to councillors for their role in securing the cash.
Ms Donaghy said the huge scheme includes a technology centre, housing, leisure, education and civic space.
Between 120 to 140 homes will be developed by Radius Housing.
There will also be public realm development linking the site to the town centre.
Work by the Northern Regional College will start in July 2020 and is due to be completed in 2022.
There will also be a new ‘northern link road’ from Broughshane Road to Larne Road Link.
Councillors were also told there will be a relocation of “very historic pillars and gates” at the barracks.
The British Legion had spoken to the Council about them and Ms Donaghy said the Council are retaining this “significant heritage”
She thanked Ballymena Ulster Unionist councillor Stephen Nicholl who had been working with the Council on the issue of the gates.
Ms Donaghy said a number of feasibility studies regarding new civic offices are underway and and one of the suggested sites is St Patrick’s and another the former Woolworths shop at Bridge Street in Ballymena across the road from The Braid building.
The Chief Executive said a business case is being developed for an ‘i4c innovation hub’ at St Patrick’s.
Ms Donaghy said they will be starting work physically on barracks in the summer time “which will be a significant move forward for this council”.
Ballymena DUP councillor John Carson said: “This is very exciting and we must always remember that this was an army base”
He said there were ample buildings at St Patrick’s which could accommodate a veterans’ centre.
The councillor said: “It would be a lasting legacy to the Royal Irish Regiment and the Royal Irish Rangers if we were able to put a veterans’ centre in St Patrick’s Barracks. It would be a jewel in the crown for that St Patrick’s Barracks project.”
Braid DUP councillor William McCaughey commended the council for “how well they have utilised this site”.
“They have delivered fantastic results for Ballymena and Mid and East Antrim,” he said.
Bannside TUV councillor Timothy Gaston said it was encouraging to see the project moving forward.
He urged caution about ‘expanding the town centre’ as the existing town centre needed help and support in very challenging times.
To stretch that even further towards the Ecos Park, he said, was a part of the scheme he could not support at this stage.
Regarding civic offices he thought it could help revitalise the former Woolworths site across from The Braid if they were built there.
“The amount of footfall that would generate would be a welcome boost,” said Mr Gaston.
The Chief Executive said the St Patrick’s Barracks site was there to “support” the town and should be linked to the town centre but there would be no retail in the site.
She wanted easy links between the site and the town to ensure people using the barracks site go into the town centre.
Anne Donaghy said she would bring back more details about a potential veterans’ centre.