Growing retail market buoys Northern Ireland's property sector as raft of big names moving in
A growing retail market in Northern Ireland is continuing to buoy the commercial property sector here - with major new brands entering the market.
Retail continues "to be the most sought after sector", according to the latest report from Lisney for the third quarter of 2015.
Belfast city centre has witnessed a raft of both new retailers and restaurants moving in, along with brands such as Gap and Jack and Jones expanding to new premises.
Lifestyle Sports had also been set to take over the former Curry's location at Donegall Arcade.
But the Belfast Telegraph also reported this week that Newcastle United owner and Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley could be set to buy Donegall Arcade.
Other names coming in to the city centre include former Dragons' Den star Theo Paphitis's lingerie chain Boux Avenue. Restaurants, including Carluccio's, Five Guys and Hawaiian burger and sandwich concept Kua 'Aina, are also opening at Victoria Square.
The Belfast Telegraph also revealed both Greggs and discount chain Pep&Co are eyeing up locations across Northern Ireland.
The report said: "Retail investments remained the most sought after sector due to the traditional Northern Ireland yield gap with the rest of the UK.
"However, this gap has tightened in recent months as a result of the weight of capital in the market, chasing opportunities,"
The plus-sized retailer, Yours Clothing, has also announced deals in Belfast and Londonderry, and plans to expand to the rest of the province.
The largest property deal in the last three months was the sale of the so-called 'Olympic portfolio' of retail parks.
That included Fairhill Shopping Centre in Ballymena - formerly owned by Sam Morrison - to Rockspring Property Investment Managers for more than £45m, the Showgrounds Retail Park in Omagh, acquired by Pradera and Tristan Capital for £27m, Lisnagelvin Retail Park in Londonderry acquired by M&G for £16.75m and Homebase at Galwally in Belfast, which went for £9.8m.
Three other major retail sites, including phase one of Riverside in Coleraine and Lisnagelvin Shopping Centre in Londonderry, have also gone on the market.
The Lisney report says the office market "remained healthy" during quarter three.
But a severe lack of grade A, top-end office space, is continuing to hamper business. The volume of lettings in the quarter totalled only 31,000 sq ft. That's a big drop from 117,000 sq ft in the same quarter in 2014.
"This is largely due to a lack of opportunity rather than a significantly reduced appetite from occupiers," the report said. And as far as office developments go, properties once owned by John Miskelly were sold off to Kilmona Holdings, a firm run by Paddy Kearney.
That includes Londonderry House - with proposals to knock it down and construct a new 10-storey building - and Ten Square, which has undergone a facelift and is set to extended further. The multi-million pound extension will see 71 new bedrooms added to the city centre spot, which is located just behind City Hall. According to Lisney, there remains a shortage of industrial buildings, particularly within greater Belfast and mid-Ulster. And the report says 'Project Lanyon', a scheme launched by Bank of Ireland - 500 residential properties with offers in the region of £55m - is now "sale agreed".