Conservation architect Dawson Stelfox has lodged a planning application for the radical transformation of the Crumlin Road courts.
The historic buildings were the site of some of the most bitter legal battles between Republicans and the British judicial system.
In a symbolic move, the courthouse was closed eight years ago, but has since been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair ( pictured).
Dawson Stelfox has been hired to carry out the design work almost 150 years after the building was opened.
Among the historic features that will be retained will be a secret tunnel that leads from the courts to a prison across the road.
The building's original architect was Sir Charles Lanyon, who was involved in the construction of some of Belfast's landmark buildings, including Custom House, Belfast Castle and Queen's University.
Barry Gilligan, the developer heading the Crumlin Court scheme, says: 'It offers an excellent opportunity for luxury hotel operators to get into the burgeoning Northern Ireland business and tourism marketplace in a unique building.'