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Plan to extend Oyster House as need for offices grows

By John Mulgrew

The next stage of a £20m revamp of a Belfast office building by developer Gareth Graham has been revealed. Oakland's new Merchant Square project will see Oyster House undergo a series of renovations and extensions, doubling the rates value of the property to £2m.

The first phase of the scheme was granted planning permission at the end of last year for the refurbishment and extension of Oyster House and Royston House, on the corner of Wellington Place and Upper Queen Street.

The proposal will add an extra 2,115sq metres of office space.

Plans have now been revealed to extend the seventh floor, along with two additional floors above, for new office space. They also reveal two new retail units and a reworked entrance.

In a design statement, it says the refurbished building "will provide a grade A standard of office accommodation in the main office area of Belfast city centre".

Referring to the demand for office space here, the report adds that "Belfast as an office location is still one of the most affordable in the UK and offers strong fundamentals for both rental and capital growth".

"Given the increased demand for office space in Belfast city centre, the 70,000sq m required annually is anticipated to increase significantly post-corporation tax cut."

Powers to lower the rate of the business levy are due to be devolved to Stormont by next April.

A spokesman for Oakland told the Belfast Telegraph in December: "We are very excited about this transformative project that has the capacity to lift the whole Wellington Square area.

"There is a need for more grade A office space in the city centre and our project has the potential to eventually house 3,000 employees."

Graham previously took vulture fund Cerberus to court after it assumed control of his companies.

However, last year he used a newspaper advertisement to apologise for criticisms made of the organisation, and in return he regained control of his businesses.

His plans for Oyster House come as Belfast undergoes a series of huge office developments.

That includes the demolition of the Movie House cinema on Dublin Road to be replaced by a £65m 12-storey block capable of holding 3,000 staff. According to developer the Richland Group, it will be the largest office building in Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, developer Paddy Kearney has been given planning permission for a £55m office. The Lanyon Central project will be built beside Central Station.

And work will soon finish on City Quays 2, part of the major waterside redevelopment at Belfast Harbour. Tenders have already been issued for the next phase, the 17-storey City Quays 3 building.

Last week plans for a £26.5m office development in Belfast's Titanic Quarter capable of housing 1,500 workers were revealed.

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