Belfast is buzzing

Con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity in city at its busiest point for adecade

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - Front Page - BY MAR­GARET CAN­NING

NEW ho­tels and stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion in Belfast have brought con­struc­tion ac­tiv­ity in the city to its busiest point in nearly a decade with 30 new projects on the way, ac­cord­ing to a sur­vey out to­day.

And Belfast City Coun­cil said the ben­e­fits of the build­ing boom were spread­ing as sup­ply chains across the prov­ince ex­pand to fill the de­mand in the city.

Busi­ness ad­vi­sory firm Deloitte said the city is now home to eight new ho­tels, six of which are still be­ing built, along with seven new stu­dent ac­com­mo­da­tion sites and six of­fice de­vel­op­ments.

Deloitte Real Es­tate’s first crane sur­vey for the city said it was in its busiest con­struc­tion pe­riod since 2008 though not enough of­fice and hous­ing space had been built upon dur­ing 2016.

And the re­port de­scribed Ul­ster Univer­sity’s de­ci­sion to move into a big­ger cam­pus in Belfast city cen­tre as a “game changer”, as it had sparked a boom in the con­struc­tion of stu­dent rooms.

The re­port said there were now 2,500 stu­dent bed-spaces be­ing built across seven projects.

Belfast City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Suzanne Wylie said: “Deloitte’s re­port comes at a great time of op­por­tu­nity for Belfast.

“The re­port demon­strates that pri­vate sec­tor de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors see the op­por­tu­ni­ties be­ing cre­ated by a growth in tourism, new com­pa­nies lo­cat­ing here, growth in our own busi­ness base and more peo­ple, in­clud­ing stu­dents, want­ing to live in the city cen­tre.”

She said the coun­cil had set an am­bi­tious tar­get to cre­ate 15,000 new jobs and en­cour­age an­other £1.5bn of in­vest­ment in build­ings and re­gen­er­a­tion projects.

“This sur­vey demon­strates that we have mo­men­tum that will be to the ben­e­fit of ev­ery part of North­ern Ire­land, not just Belfast,” she said.

“The model that works for all suc­cess­ful re­gions is to de­velop a very strong city which helps to grow sup­ply chains through­out the re­gion, cre­ates sig­nif­i­cantly more money in peo­ple’s pock­ets and helps to pay for the in­fras­truc­ture and lo­cal de­vel­op­ments needed across North­ern Ire­land.”

Deloitte’s sur­vey said re­tail and leisure was also on the up in the city, as the re­cent rates reval­u­a­tion had re­sulted in new busi­nesses com­ing to a va­ri­ety of pre­vi­ously un­der-used lo­ca­tions, such as Arthur Street and Cas­tle Lane.

How­ever, the re­port said there was a lack of res­i­den­tial and of­fice de­vel­op­ment, with just 84 res­i­den­tial units fin­ished dur­ing 2016 in the city cen­tre — though none would be com­ing to mar­ket un­til at least next year.

Three of­fice de­vel­op­ments amount­ing to 309,000 sq ft had been fin­ished dur­ing the year, and an­other three were be­ing built — which Deloitte said would bring 364,000 sq ft of of­fice space to the mar­ket.

Si­mon Bed­ford, part­ner in Deloitte’s Real Es­tate prac­tice, said: “The re­port shows that Belfast is on an upward tra­jec­tory as a lo­ca­tion for in­vest­ment and de­vel­op­ment.”

But he con­tin­ued: “Of­fice de­vel­op­ment has proved dif­fi­cult to fi­nance in the mar­ket, which is un­for­tu­nate as the cor­po­rate de­mand for Grade-a of­fice space is on the in­crease. It is also clear that city cen­tre liv­ing has yet to re­ally take off in Belfast, but grow­ing stu­dent num­bers will, we be­lieve, drive this mar­ket for­ward be­fore 2020.”

He said the city was grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity as a leisure and busi­ness des­ti­na­tion, which was hav­ing a di­rect im­pact on the con­struc­tion sec­tor.

He added: “Belfast’s de­vel­op­ment pipe­line is in good shape and we there­fore ex­pect to see even more cranes on the sky­line in 2017 and 2018.”

Belfast City Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive Suzanne Wylie with Si­mon Bed­ford, part­ner in Deloitte’s Real Es­tate prac­tice

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