Belfast is buzzing
Construction activity in city at its busiest point for adecade
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.”