Commercial transactions to hit £500m by end of year
A range of new retailers and growing demand for office space have boosted Belfast’s commercial property market, with transactions totalling nearly £500m due to be completed by the end of the year.
The opening of new stores in the heart of Belfast has cut down vacancy rates here, according to CBRE’s latest commercial property report.
Newcomers to Donegall Place include clothing brand Stradivarius, which is a sister brand of Zara — leaving the stretch fully let, also thanks to the arrival of US casual clothing giant Gap and lifestyle footwear retailer Skechers.
And Belfast shopping centre CastleCourt has also filled out many of the gaps left by retailers which have moved elsewhere, or left the city altogether.
They include Yours Clothing, Bon Marche and Schuh Kids.
And aside from city developments, several big name retail parks have been sold in the last two months.
This includes Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena, formerly owned by property developer Sam Morrison, which was sold for more than £45m.
And Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor has been sold for close to its £54m asking price.
In the Abbey Centre, Dunnes Stores is due to carry out an overhaul, while Next will also undergo a renovation.
And CBRE said that hospitality was another area of expansion, with the Ten Square Hotel in Belfast applying for permission to build a 71 bed extension, permission granted to Hastings Hotels to convert Windsor House into a 200 bed four-star hotel, and nightclub El Divino on the market for £1.35m.
However, CBRE said that there were concerns over the sheer number of student accommodation schemes which were entering the planning process in Belfast.
“It is inevitable that a number of these schemes will not materialise or there will be a threat of oversupply in this specialist sector,” the report said.
Brian Lavery, managing director, CBRE Belfast, said that activity in the commercial market was likely to be “considerable” as the year comes to a close.
“As we have seen over the last number of years, there is a tendency for a large amount of transactional activity to conclude in the last few weeks of the year,” he said.
“The increasing surge in the office market and rising rents have coincided with upward pressure on rents in the industrial and retail sectors.
“We recently hosted a conference at our London headquarters where we were able to highlight the investment opportunities in the Northern Ireland market due to the notable pricing differential between Belfast and competing UK cities.
“Despite any political uncertainty and ongoing negotiations, Northern Ireland is set for a busy two months ahead as the usual clamour to get deals signed by year-end kicks-off.”