Funding facelift for north coast derelict buildings
The Department of the Environment is providing £405,000 of funding to tackle dereliction in Portrush and Portstewart.
Minister Alex Attwood said the money would be used by Coleraine Borough Council to demolish buildings, repair, secure and paint others, and landscape a number of sites to create urban parks.
Work will begin this week.
The Irish Open will be held in Portrush at the end of June.
The Metropole Hotel in Portrush will be demolished.
An urban park will be created at Dunluce Avenue and Kerr Street, while the front of buildings in Landsdowne Crescent will be repaired.
The Strand Hotel in Portstewart will also be the demolished.
It is part of a "longer term ambition" the minister has for the north coast and other council areas.
Mr Attwood said the investment in Portrush and Portstewart was "money well spent".
"Tourism makes a significant contribution to the local economy," he said.
"On top of that the Irish Open comes to town at the end of June and the International North West 200 road race in May.
"If we want tourists to stay longer, if we want more tourists to come, then tackling major eyesores and dereliction will certainly do that.
"While this is timely in relation to the Irish Open, I am doing this to benefit tourist numbers in the long-term.
He said most of the visitors to the north coast were from Northern Ireland and "we need to enhance their experience when they visit".
"Crucially, this investment is also being done for the people of the area. They will have the character of their built environment improved.
"These sites are scars on the beautiful causeway coast, in towns with a great history, great popularity and a great future."
Mr Attwood said the scheme must not be a "short-term fix".
"What concerns me is that we have developers on the north coast with money to build and develop on the one hand, while on the other, letting sites that they own decay and scar the area.
"I will be calling these developers in, telling them to get their act together and deal with the eyesores they own. I am also calling in the NAMA advisory board in respect of their properties.
"I hope to take this message across other council areas.
"Today is a model for future action across Northern Ireland."
Mayor of Coleraine, Alderman Maurice Bradley, welcomed the funding boost.
"For over two years the council has been negotiating with administrators and property owners in the borough to make changes to minimise the unattractive appearance of dilapidated properties," he said.
"As part of the council's '2012 Clean-up our Borough' campaign, we are also supporting an initiative by local resident and community groups to paint and clean-up where they can.
Mr Bradley said many buildings were still privately-owned and legislation did not allow councils to make the necessary changes which residents wanted.
"We have appealed to owners on numerous occasions to repair the damage to their properties," he added.
"With a number of major events imminent, the council has negotiated with several property owners to allow it to make the changes with a view to recovering its costs in the future."
The Borough of Coleraine will host the Irish Open Golf Tournament and the London 2012 Olympic Torch, along with annual events, including the North West 200, the Milk Cup and the International Airshow.