Belfast Telegraph

Investors 'being deterred' by lack of high-end office space in Northern Ireland

BY MARGARET CANNING

A lack of high-end office space is deterring investors from setting up or expanding in Northern Ireland, it has been claimed.

As it released a report on office, retail and industrial space in the province, Lisney urged the Executive to intervene to bolster the office market, which has seen a lack of investment in the downturn.

The commercial property agents said most private sector developers could not afford to build speculative 'Grade A' office developments of the high specification required by foreign direct investors. In addition, banks were reluctant to fund such builds, as investors often sought short-term leases.

Declan Flynn, managing director of Lisney in Belfast, said: "There are a number of ways Stormont could support the development of Grade A office space in Belfast.

"One way is via a rental guarantee. Many bankers have concerns over tenant requests for lease term flexibility, so a rental guarantee, perhaps time-bound to a rolling guarantee over three years, would help to alleviate these concerns and restore confidence."

Director David McNellis said the lack of Grade A space had created "a difficult situation for Northern Ireland plc".

He said one client was seeking an extension of its existing offices to employ a further 450 people but a lack of space could see them go elsewhere with the extra jobs.

A DETI spokeswoman said: "The department is not aware of any investment projects which have been lost to Northern Ireland as a result of a lack of Grade A office provision."

She said Invest NI had identified around 300,000 sq ft of Grade A offices in the city as part of a review to be published next year.

Lisney's report also said the value of investment commercial property transactions in two years had grown from £25m in 2011 to over £150m this year.

Belfast Telegraph

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