Titanic: The Sequel

June 22, 2009
By Luiza Santos BRONZE, Boston, Massachusetts
Luiza Santos BRONZE, Boston, Massachusetts
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“The Titanic.” Already, images have popped up in your head of Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet aboard the “unsinkable” steamship that now rests in the glacial waters of the Atlantic. In about thirty years, the name will also be associated with a sparkling new city in Belfast, Northern Ireland: the Titanic Quarter.
The Titanic Quarter is being built around the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast, the birthplace of the Titanic. So, why name a city after a ship whose sinking was one of the greatest catastrophes in nautical history?
This brilliant branding takes advantage of the fame of the Titanic, especially that which was spurred by the movie, to attract tourists and future inhabitants. The planners address the negative connotation by joking that the Titanic was fine when it left Belfast; it was a British captain and an American iceberg that sunk it.
The masterplanners, including the architect Eric Kuhne, think of the task as “building the future while recognizing the past.” This ambitious waterfront regeneration project will use the history of the Titanic as a backdrop for a future financial capital with the intention of revamping the Belfast economy.
The Titanic Quarter will be equipped with everything it takes to succeed in our global economy. A new college, the Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education, will attract a lively student population. In addition to expensive water front apartments, at least 15% of the housing will be priced for students and the elderly. The TQ will also be equipped with direct Tier 1 connectivity, the highest Internet connectivity provision with diverse routing resilience. There will also be easy access to Britain by bus and train.
The environment is also of concern to the planners. The Titanic Quarter will lock in the lead and arsenic, which its shipbuilding history contaminated the site with, in a cement-like mixture to keep it from reaching the River Lagan. There will also be recycled materials like aluminum and concrete in many of the buildings.
Belfast hopes that this new city will turn into a financial capital and boost its economy by attracting foreign direct investors, and bringing in well-known companies like Citigroup and Microsoft. It will create about 20,000 new mostly modern jobs, in areas like the office, light industrial, tourism, and leisure. Additional economic drivers include creative media and connected health, which are digitized medical records that can monitor patients from home. This last one will save a plethora of people because chronic illnesses account for about 65% of emergency room visits.
The Titanic Quarter sounds great so far, but it isn’t anything but talk without the right financing. The government funds 50% of the project; once the real estate values they will get more than enough of their investment back. As of May 2009, Michael Graham, director of corporate real estate at the TQ, said the global economic downturn had not afflicted the development of the city yet because many of the projects had already been contracted.
Now, it’s just a matter of waiting before prospective inhabitants can move in. Phase 1 is underway with apartments, a hotel, gateway offices, and the Belfast Institute Campus.
Hopefully no one will claim this city to be indestructible, because that is just asking for it.

The author's comments:
Written after visiting the Titanic Quarter site on a college sponsored trip.

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