Culzean Holdings has secured a £20m development agreement with hotel operator Ramada Worldwide to open Northern Ireland’s first Encore hotel.

It will develop a 169 bedroom Encore by Ramada as part of a £75m mixed-use development of St Anne’s Square development in Belfast. Construction work on the hotel will begin in November this year and will open in April 2008.

The partnership with Ramada, an international hotel brand owned by the world’s largest hotel franchisor Wyndham, follows the news earlier this month of Culzean’s development agreement with the Intercontinental Hotels Group to develop the Express by Holiday Inn brand.

Culzean is a joint venture between Coleraine-based property and leisure development company The Kennedy Group and urban regeneration property developers CUSP. St Ann’s Square in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter is being jointly developed by Turnus – another joint venture between the Kennedy group and Cusp.

Gareth Kirk, spokesman for Culzean Holdings, said: “ Our aim is to create a multi-branded portfolio of hotels the length and breadth of Ireland. We are already at advanced stages of negotiation with a third hotel brand.’