A £10m office development by Belfast Harbour aimed at international investors has won planning permission, the first phase of its new and grandiose dockside scheme.
Belfast Harbour plans to build a five storey, 83,000 sq ft block of high-end offices – and getting the Department of Environment's go-ahead makes it the first speculative office build to get out of the blocks in recent years.
The offices are being touted as premises for global corporations in the league of Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Citi. Work could start on the Belfast Harbour scheme, City Quay 1, as soon as next month if a contractor is appointed .
The application for the office block was lodged in March and planning permission granted last month.
Roy Adair, chief executive of Belfast Harbour, said: "CQ1 is the city-ward extension of Clarendon Dock which is already home to a number of significant occupants such as Intel, Capita and Grant Thornton.
"Belfast Harbour has been working closely with Invest NI to address the gap in Grade A office space in Belfast city centre and CQ1 will be available for a full range of commercial office uses.
"This investment, funded entirely by Belfast Harbour, will meet the needs of emerging demand."
John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the scheme was good news for construction. "At a time when numerous public sector projects are stalling it is reassuring to see this private sector development forging ahead. With building contractors due to be appointed very soon, this project will be on the ground providing jobs for the construction sector in a matter of weeks."
David Wright, a director at agents CBRE, said City Quays 1 marked the first speculative office planning application in around six years.
"It's a brave move in that regards – but it's one that will pay dividends, too, because we are starting to run out of really good quality office space," he said.
The decision by Land and Property Service to occupy Lanyon Plaza had added to the high levels of take-up.
Mark Hackett of architecture group Forum for Alternative Belfast, which encourages the use of existing buildings, said it supported the development of high-end offices, but said: "With so very many empty sites around the centre we would question the need for any proposal over six to eight floors.
"Isolated tall blocks make little contribution to repairing the city. We believe all new regeneration can and should contribute to remaking streets with lively frontages at ground level, re-stitiching our broken city."
The overall £250m City Quays scheme is designed by architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, whose work includes the Eden Project.