Belfast Telegraph

Agents complain at shortage of top-end office space

By Margaret Canning

New inward investor Alexander Mann Associates is set to announce the location of its new Belfast city centre office later this week.

The company is expected to sign up to occupy offices in Millennium House in Great Victoria Street.

But yesterday, commercial property agents CBRE said there was a lack of good quality office accommodation.

According to its bi-monthly analysis of trends in commercial property in Northern Ireland, there has been an increase in activity following Project Eagle, in which Nama sold loans held by its Northern Ireland-based debtors to US investors Cerberus. Brian Lavery, managing director of CBRE Belfast, said more buyers were coming into the market, including US investors.

But he added: "We have been disappointed with the lack of large transactions completing in the occupier markets, due to some extent to the lack of good quality office accommodation in prime locations, which is in in contrast to the retail sector which has seen an increase in activity with a number of new entrants to the Belfast market."

And he said that if stock was released for sale to meet demand, "we fully anticipate the latter half of 2014 being incredibly active as we work to meet investor demand". The report said that many new US investors were frustrated at the scarcity of prime investment opportunities. And CBRE said there had been "strong interest" in the Tower Hotel in Derry, which is on the market with a guide price of £3.75m.

There had been considerable activity in retail in Northern Ireland, CBRE said – though activity was mainly focused on Belfast, resulting in rising rents in key locations like Arthur Street.

Other developments included the arrival of Simply Be and Jacamo in a store in CastleCourt, while Karen Millen had relocated from Donegall Square to Victoria Square. Fatface had also expanded in the high-end centre, where Mango was also fitting out a new store, CBRE said.

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