ARTISTS have been given their marching orders from the Project 24 pods on Bangor seafront.
Current tenants have been told that they’ll need to clear out before the end of March next year, moving out ahead of the coming £50m revamp of Queen’s Parade that’s set to replace Project 24. Artists received their eviction notices towards the end of last week, meaning the people currently in the pods will be the final occupants of what was supposed to be a two-year stopgap scheme that wound up being in place for a full decade.
The art pods were formally opened in 2013, built as a temporary measure until the proper Queen’s Parade project got under way – but have been there ever since. They were designed to brighten up an area that had been voted Northern Ireland’s biggest eyesore in a TV poll, and the Project 24 name derives in part from the concept that the pods were supposed to have a lifespan of only 24 months.
Confirming that the pods will shut in March 2023, an Ards and North Down Council spokesman stated that the local authority ‘would like to thank all the artists for their valuable contribution to the area’. Said the spokesman: “After the tenants have vacated, the council will clear the site. “[Developers Bangor Marine are] undertaking detailed design and pre-site construction surveys before starting work on site, which they have indicated will be within the next 12 months.
“Construction will be carried out in a phased approach over a fiveyear period.” Just because artists will be leaving at the end of March, however, it doesn’t mean that construction work will immediately begin on the £50m Queen’s Parade scheme. Bangor Marine have previously stated that it will take them roughly a year to set up contracts and source building materials after formal planning permissions were issued. That puts the intended start of construction sometime in September next year. Artists in Project 24 got tenancy contracts of at least six months at a time, though, meaning that anyone moving into a pod in April 2023 wouldn’t have time to complete their tenancy before construction work begins.
The pods have played host to a steady turnover of local artists since they were built, and proved a hit with the people of Bangor by vastly improving the look of what was a highly visible and large derelict patch of land on the seafront. The derelict land was created years earlier by the demolition of several buildings to make way for the Queen’s Parade regeneration scheme that is only now getting moving. The site has also been used to stage markets and arts festival events. When Project 24 was opened all the way back in 2013 by then-Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland, it was described by officials as a rainbow splash of colour that would transform a neglected area until the larger revamp of the seafront could get under way.
At that time officials said they hoped to have the full Queen’s Parade scheme finished by 2018. As it stands, Bangor Marine have only just received formal confirmation that they won planning permission for a second time after a year-long delay caused by civil servants in the Department for Infrastructure.