FIRST Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness have officially opened the Skainos project on the Newtownards Road in east Belfast.
The aim of the Skainos project is the creation of a new shared space ‘urban village’ in inner East Belfast.
The development is located on the Newtownards Road between Dee Street and Templemore Avenue.
Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources including, EU Peace III Programme (£6.1million), Department for Social Development (£5.4million), International Fund for Ireland (£3million), East Belfast Mission (£1.2million) Oaklee Homes Group through DSD Housing Branch (£4.2million) and Skainos £750,000.
Speaking at the official opening the First Minister said: “The work taking place here is an excellent example of how, in many areas, local people can lead the way towards building a more united and shared society.
“I have no doubt that this project will succeed in bringing together people with very different histories and diverse backgrounds – because Skainos is reaching out and connecting with the spirit of our times.
“The Executive’s Programme for Government commits us to work towards creating a sense of unity across our neighbourhoods and the new Community Relations Strategy will show how we will advance that agenda, with specific commitments and actions.”
This village, built round a specially created new street with a village square, will model new approaches to economic activity, training and education, access to services, housing and community interaction which not only includes the traditional communities in Northern Ireland but the new ethnic minority community in East Belfast.
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “The Skainos project is a great example of effective community relations.
“Local people tackling local issues in a spirit of partnership and collaboration. Projects like this do not just happen. They require people who have a desire to make a difference and also financial backing to make things a reality. Everyone involved in this project is to be commended.
“The Executive is committed to providing leadership on improving good relations. The Programme for Government underlines this by giving a firm commitment to build a united and shared society. The key building block for achieving this will be a robust and effective good relations strategy.”
The Skainos Project involved the demolition of a number of buildings to create a purpose built, flagship development specifically designed to serve the needs of the wider East Belfast community.
Social Development Minister, Nelson McCausland said: “This development is a great boost for the people of East Belfast.
“I would like to congratulate Skainos Limited, their partners and stakeholders on the completion of such an ambitious, innovative and significant development.
“The whole project is an example of how deprivation can be addressed and regeneration stimulated by bringing together the public, private and community sectors in a partnership approach.
“The Skainos project will help alleviate dereliction along a major arterial route providing a significant opportunity to reinvigorate and revive the area, delivering real change in one of Belfast’s most deprived areas.
“It will support improvements to health and well being, and improve educational attainment within the wider East Belfast community whilst significantly addressing housing need. I wish it every success.”