Monday, December 17, 2007

Hope it succeeds

Spiegel Online:
Optimism, in other words, is in no short supply in Belfast these days. And neither is ambition. Ultimately, promoters of the 3 billion pound ($6.17 billion), 15-year development hope the Titanic Quarter, located just northeast of the city center, will generate 3-4 billion pounds of investment and 25,000 new jobs for the city....

But it's the next stage that has organizers particularly excited. In addition to providing a home for 450,000 square feet of restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels, and a new campus for Belfast Metropolitan College, the finished product will host a museum dedicated to the area's ship-building past. Out the front door of the museum, a vast park will perfectly mirror the slips where the Titanic and its sister ship Olympic were built.

"The Titanic is a big draw, but it hasn't been fully exploited," says Kerrie Sweeney, project manager for the planned Titanic visitors' center. "There isn't really anything for visitors to see."

Strictly speaking, that's not entirely true. Tour operators at present offer two-hour boat trips along the mostly defunct River Lagan shipyards. In addition to a historical narrative about the building of the Titanic -- launched on May 31, 1911 -- tourists have the opportunity to buy T-shirts with the slogan "She was alright when she left here." Another catchphrase plays on the fact that Titanic Captain Edward John Smith hailed from England: "Built by Irishmen. Sunk by an Englishman." The trips are full even on wet and blustery days in autumn.

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