Belfast Telegraph

BHS building in Belfast looks set for two new city centre retailers

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By John Mulgrew

Two new retailers look set to take on the former BHS building in Belfast city centre.

The shutters were pulled down on the Castle Place store in August with the loss of 57 jobs in 2016.

Two separate retailers are thought to be under offer at the building, which would involve the businesses taking each of the buildings at Castle Place, which are split by an alley.

And it's also understood that there is 'healthy interest' from businesses in taking on the nearby former Mothercare store, also on Castle Place.

In February the Belfast Telegraph revealed that a building attached to the former Castle Place BHS had been sold to an investor, believed to be Bywater Properties. The administration of BHS affected 164 stores and 11,000 employees UK-wide, including 152 staff at four outlets here.

A deal to take on the prominent city centre site would mean half of the former BHS properties would have found replacements.

Dunnes Stores has taken on the former BHS unit at the Abbey Centre in Newtownabbey, but its occupancy is not long-term, while furniture retailer EZ Living Interiors is taking on the large unit left behind when BHS Home shut its doors at Holywood Exchange.

Meanwhile, a new commercial property report from CBRE said that, while the second quarter of the year has been slow, some £220m of deals are currently going through legals and are due to be completed in the coming weeks.

CBRE has also said that the commercial property market in Northern Ireland is set to benefit from the additional £1bn funding secured following the recent agreement between the Conservatives and the DUP.

During the second quarter of the year, just £18m was invested in seven separate transactions.

"Despite potential uncertainty resulting from local and national politics, market activity continues to be robust, albeit the speed of completing transactions slowed running up to the UK general election," Gavin Elliott, director with CBRE said.

"The local property market should also be well placed for further future investment as a result of the additional £1bn funding recently announced for Northern Ireland.

"The occupational markets continue to be active with a number of new office lettings confirmed, and both the Belfast City Centre Investment Fund and Northern Ireland Investment fund tender are set to provide additional funding to the property sector."

And CBRE has said getting Stormont up-and-running and the fast-tracking of corporation tax reductions remain the priorities for the commercial property market here.

The report said notable retail transactions in the last three months included Hotel Chocolat at Donegall Square North, Boojum at Victoria Square and Skechers at the Quays in Newry.

A number of industrial properties remain on the market, including the Michelin site in Ballymena.

The report also says that the second quarter saw a number of "large transactions progress towards completion", including the £125m sale of CastleCourt Shopping Centre to Holywood firm Wirefox.

"We believe that Q3 will deliver a high level of investment given the closure of a number of shopping and retail schemes due to complete in the coming weeks," Mr Elliott said.

"Whilst the Tory/DUP deal should be positive for the property sector, it is imperative that we have a stable local government in place, to deliver confidence to a global investment market."

Belfast Telegraph

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