Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Situation vacant: tackling city's eyesores means thinking big

Mark Riddell, associate, Savills Belfast takes a look at a vacant area of the property world...

Driving around the capital I cannot help but notice the amount of underdeveloped land that exists in the greater Belfast area.

Most of it sticks out like a sore thumb and is a blight on the developments which are typically located either side. The Forum for Alternative Belfast carried out some work in the last number of years which highlighted this well.

But why do we have so much vacant land in what effectively is a metropolitan area and what can be done to get it up and running?

It is no secret that the property recovery has been a long and arduous process.

As we approach the second anniversary of the introduction of the Republic's National Asset Management Agency (Nama) it is difficult to recall the time when funding was available and transactions were plentiful.

Across the city there are examples of vacant sites with no obvious strategy other than perhaps surface car parking to generate short-term cash flow.

We need to think bigger and use foreign direct investment (FDI) as the key driver to develop this land.

The granting of a reduced corporation tax to Northern Ireland presents a significant opportunity for the city and will allow Belfast to compete with the likes of Dublin in attracting international companies similar to Google, Facebook and Dell.

But we will need the right type of office accommodation for them as part of this overall strategy.

It is certainly not the case that all the sites should be developed into high rise office buildings tomorrow, but we need to make sure we continue to be a viable option as a business centre in the UK and Europe.

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