THREE teams are pricing a mixed-use development widely considered to be Belfast's boldest construction project to date.
Local firms Graham Martin and Gilbert Ash are on collision course for the £50 million Donegal Quay deal, with Newry outfit O'Hare & McGovern also in the fray to erect Northern Ireland's tallest tower.
The project, called the Obel Tower, has been designed by architect Broadway Malyan. It will feature an 80 m glass tower, which will contain 182 apartments over 26 storeys - 19 more than Belfast's current tallest residential building.
At £365 per sq ft, it is the most expensive development in the city and will stand by the city's waterfront.
Historically, developers have avoided building tall towers because of the terrorist threat.
The client, the Laganside Corporation, was set up by the Government in 1989 to mastermind the regeneration of 150 ha of inner-city land straddling both banks of the river Lagan.
Two years in the planning, Donegal Quay will be the riverside's flagship development and aims to represent Belfast's regeneration.
Doug Garrett, deputy chief executive of the Laganside Corporation, said: 'For years, buildings in the city have been low-rise with no glass.The Obel Tower is a statement of confidence.
'The first flats in Laganside were built in 1994.We struggled to sell a two-bed penthouse for £30,000. Banks would not lend on city-centre properties.Today, the same flat is £200,000.'
The completed development will incorporate a 144-bed hotel, commercial office space, a bar and restaurant and two levels of basement car parking.The M&E fit out will be carried out by Antrim team Delap & Waller.
Apartment prices will start at £90,000 for a one-bedroom flat rising to £475,000 for a penthouse.
The contractors have returned bids and a decision is expected towards the tail end of the summer with a start on site shortly after.
Work will finish by the beginning of 2008.