Belfast Telegraph

Top-end office lettings in Belfast up by 40% last year

By John Mulgrew

Top-end office letting in Belfast increased by 40% over the last year, it can be revealed. The latest end-of-year figures show some 435,000sq ft of office space was let during the course of 2016. That was up 36% based on a five-year average, the industry figures reveal.

The biggest deal of the last quarter was the letting of the Soloist building to professional services firm KPMG. It's understood a figure of £21.50 a square foot was agreed.

Other major deals included law firm Axiom.

The company took 26,100sq ft of office space at the newly refurbished Lincoln Building on Great Victoria Street.

And there were 14 deals above 10,000sq ft, typically a space requirement from companies with around 100 staff.

While the Belfast office market "performed very strongly in 2016 despite external political events", there still remains a shortage of top-end grade A office space, according to Simon McEvoy, head of office agency at Savills.

"The demand side continues to perform very strongly with a substantial jump on the annual sq ft take-up from 2015 and also the number of transactions," he said.

"However, the concern for the market is that the high level of take-up has been focused on the better stock and supply of this quality stock is now at chronically low levels.

"There are a number of refurbishments projects that are due to complete in early to mid-2017, which is great for the short to medium term, though the market requires the delivery of new developments to sustain 2016's take-up and to ensure that Belfast does not lose out to other locations for future demand."

Some nine office developments, making up 618,000sq ft of space, are now under way in Belfast.

It's understood three-quarters of that proposed development is in the city centre, including areas such as Titanic Quarter and City Quays at Belfast Harbour.

"Belfast is still the most affordable location of all regional cities in UK and Ireland and while growth in rental levels can cause occupier concern, it should be noted that rent generally accounts for less than 10% of business costs, so the effect on affordability is marginal compared to all the other cost savings that Northern Ireland has to offer to the employer and their employees," Mr McEvoy said.

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