Belfast City Council buys Clarendon House for 'office development'
Belfast City Council has bought Clarendon House for £24.7m with plans to knock it down and build a new 100,000 sq ft office complex.
It's claimed the deal - which has been described as the "most significant office development in the city for 10 years" - will create hundreds of jobs during its construction.
The council has said the major development alongside construction firm McAleer & Rushe will be funded at "no cost to the ratepayer by efficiencies achieved from rationalising the council's existing office estate and selling a number of surplus redundant buildings".
And planning approval is already in place for the new office complex.
The building was built back in the 1970s and was bought by Cookstown-based construction firm McAleer and Rushe last year.
The new office scheme will be designed by Todd Architects.
Declan Boyle, chairman of the council's Strategic Policy and Resources Committee said it was "delighted to be working on this development in partnership with McAleer & Rushe".
"This is further significant investment in the city centre by Belfast City Council, following on from our £150m investment programme which was launched in 2012," he said.
"It is part of our approach to maximise efficiencies by clustering our staff and services within close proximity."
Clarendon House at Adelaide Street in the city centre is close to Belfast City Hall, and the Cecil Ward Building on Linenhall Street, where the new Belfast Planning Service and the Consumer Advice Centre are now located.
A planning application had initially been filed by McAleer & Rushe and Todd Architects back in October 2014, to demolish the existing building and develop a 10-storey replacement office building.
That proposed building was reduced to nine floors, while proposed car parking spaces at ground level were removed during the planning process.
The application was approved by the council on May 19.
It's the latest big commercial property deal in Belfast over the last few months.
Hotel group Hastings purchased the 23-storey Windsor House on Bedford Street - one of the tallest buildings in Ireland - earlier this month for £6.5m.
And just this week the home of CCEA in Belfast's Clarendon Dock was put on sale for a price tag of £6m.
And CBRE has said there were also nine investment transactions totalling around £58.6m during the first three months of 2015.
Stephen Surphlis of McAleer & Rushe said the firm was "very pleased to have been awarded the contract".
"We look forward to working with Belfast City Council to deliver this high quality office development which will be finished to Breeam Excellent standard in line with current corporate occupier sustainability and energy efficient requirements.
"This deal comes at time of rising demand for Grade A office stock within the Belfast and hopefully will act as a catalyst for other office projects in the city."
It comes amid concerns over a shortage of prime office space in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland.
An Invest NI report earlier this year claimed Northern Ireland could lose out on attracting crucial foreign direct investment (FDI) due to the lack of Grade A offices.
The report highlighted just two new office building developments at the City Quays at Belfast Harbour.
Rents are also predicted to continue to rise over the next few years.
In the report, Invest NI had also explored a range of options to rejuvenate the market here.
That included buying new office buildings and providing development funding.
But it said that providing "mezzanine funding/equity" offered the best chance of stimulating the development of new Grade A offices.