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Belfast City Council hoping to attract investors at MIPIM property expo

By John Mulgrew

Published 26/02/2016

Among the biggest developments is the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast
Among the biggest developments is the Grand Central Hotel, Belfast
Artist's impression showing planned development of former First Trust
Plans for the new Grand Central Hotel, Belfast on the site of the old Windsor House

Belfast can attract £1bn of investment and create an additional 30,000 new jobs in the next five years, a new City Council-led campaign has claimed.

It has taken a joint public and private sector trade mission to MIPIM - one of the world's biggest property expos, taking place in France - in a bid to attract major investors here.

It's the first time Belfast has made the trip since the property crash, and it will include some of Northern Ireland's biggest developers, such as McAleer and Rushe and Lagan Construction.

The council said Belfast's major development sites are now largely free from the "burden of Nama debt".

It's campaigning and selling Belfast based on a range of areas, including low corporation tax.

Asked whether the grand target of £1bn of investment is achievable, Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie said: "I think it is realistic".

"But I think we have to act now. I think our window of opportunity to get investors attracted is right here and now.

"The general sell will be around hotels, the need for Grade A office space.

"But we will also be going out with specific sites."

Some of the projects which are under way include the North Foreshore, which is being turned into an environmental business park known as Giant's Park and the Sirocco site in east Belfast, which was recently sold.

Asked whether selling Belfast as a top destination for businesses and investors was made more difficult in the shadow of a vote on whether to leave the EU, Ms Wylie said: "I think that's something we all have to live with.

"I think that our big sell is the corporation tax reduction. That's what we want to get across to investors."

And one of those major developers making the trip and already working on numerous major Belfast city centre projects is Lagan Construction Group.

According to business development director Freddie Patterson, Lagan is also eyeing a number of other developments.

He said: "I think we see the opportunity as a construction partner for some of the developers. That may involve, at some stage, investment in terms of taking equity in these projects."

Jackie Henry, senior partner at Deloitte, who heads up the MIPIM steering group, said she had "assembled group of over 25 private and public organisations who are largely funding this project".

The 'Belfast Goes to Market' investment drive was hosted by Lord Mayor Arder Carson at St George's Market.

Some of the latest big sales and developments in Belfast include work beginning on the Grand Central hotel at Windsor House and the sale of a former Danske Bank building at Donegall Square North to a private investor.

But a £20m proposed office development by French firm Stargime hit a wall, after a report suggested it should not go ahead.

Belfast Telegraph

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