A FORMER tea warehouse in Belfast city centre has been sold to experienced developers for £1.2m - half its asking price.
The Nambarrie building on Waring Street, close to the Cathedral Quarter, has been on the market since 2008.
It was up for sale through property agents CBRE with an asking price of £2.25m.
Purchaser Village Homes, which is controlled by members of the Fraser family, has now submitted a planning application to overhaul the site by demolishing the warehouse and building an eight- storey complex of 56 apartments and shops.
One commercial property insider said: "This is another positive development for Belfast. The fact that somebody is prepared to come in and put their money where their mouth is and put planning applications in - which if approved, could lead to building - all helps Belfast."
The one-bedroom apartments at the Nambarrie site are expected to be sold for up to £90,000 each.
Village Homes is also behind a planning application to build 75 apartments in a 14-storey building at Queen's Square in the city centre, a site formerly occupied by Grafton Recruitment.
Their decision to buy was viewed on one property website as a sign that the bottom has been reached in commercial property values in the city after more than three years of falling prices.
New apartment sales in the city centre have been bedevilled by the crash in the housing market.
Many who contracted to buy city centre apartments off-plan during the property boom found that they could not raise mortgage finance once the properties had been completed from 2009.
Developers including Ormeau Bakery owners Big Picture and Titanic Quarter Ltd have taken would-be buyers to court to force them to complete.
Judges have mainly found in favour of developers - though in August last year Titanic buyer Neil Rowe was found to be unable to fulfil a contract to buy a flat in Titanic Quarter because of lack of money after losing his job.
Mr Justice Deeny said Mr Rowe had a "clearly arguable case" that it would be impossible for him to pay for the apartment, sold for £264,500.
However, Titanic Quarter was allowed to retain the paid deposit of £26,000.