Belfast Telegraph

Hong Kong investors back Bangor property development

£3m apartment development wins support of tycoons from Far East

By Lesley Houston

Money from Hong Kong has been secured to finance a new £3m apartment development in Bangor - ushering in an era of living for the busy commuter town more familiar to Belfast househunters.

Urban Property Solutions has this week started construction of 27 apartments at Dufferin Avenue, just metres from the town's train station and convenient for commuters. Catherine Place will be a mix of mostly two and a few three-bedroom dwellings which are due to near completion late 2015 early 2016

The homes, aimed at the rental market, will breathe new life into the brownfield site, which has been a derelict eyesore in the town for a number of years.

Up until a number of months ago it was used as an unofficial spillover car park for rail passengers.

The developer behind the apartments, Michael Dunlop - part of whose family is behind Dunlop Homes - said it was geared toward young professionals who are often commuters to Belfast, or even young couples starting out on the property ladder.

"They're for people starting out or moving away from home and who want to live near the town centre where it's close to shopping and entertainment within walking distance like in Belfast, where there's certainly a trend for that," said Mr Dunlop.

During his 40 years in the business he has been involved in the construction of a diverse portfolio, from churches and schools to homes and apartments.

Mr Dunlop said his latest apartment venture was only made possible after personal contacts in Hong Kong stepped in to bridge the vaccuum left by the banks' continuing reticence to finance the construction industry.

"We bought the site in 2001 and got planning permission in 2006 and when the recession hit we had to park it for a time because we weren't able to get finance," he said.

"The banks were not lending and are still not lending for development properties and so we got finance from friends in Hong Kong."

One of his financiers is a Bangor old boy - who he said he'd rather not identify at this stage - who left Northern Ireland for the Far East 25 years ago.

He said that along with his Malaysian wife and a few other investors, they made their fortunes in financial services and were keen to join forces.

"We were very lucky," Mr Dunlop maintained.

"They made their fortunes out there and just by chance we had a conversation about looking for investors and he has investments all over the world, in the United States, Malaysia and the UK, and we suggested they look at this site.

"I suppose it's like a bit of a coming home feeling for him," said Michael.

The developer also hopes to revive another derelict site with the construction of between 30 and 35 apartments in the town but said he must remain tight-lipped about its location for the moment while bids as assessed.

"There are plenty of places in Bangor that need brought up to modern standards," he said.

Once-prominent areas of Bangor like Queen's Parade and the seafront Promenade have fallen into disrepair in recent years through lack of investment.

A regeneration project for Queen's Parade has been in the pipeline for 20 years, including a hotel, convention centre, homes, offices and entertainment space.

In May 2013 the Department for Social Development stepped in to purchase the site when private sector development plans stalled and in March 2014.

Belfast Telegraph

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