Wow. Looking out from the 27th floor of Ireland’s tallest building is a jaw-dropping experience. For the Obel Tower’s flagship penthouse apartments boast stunning floor-to-ceiling windows which reveal what is without a doubt the best view of Belfast.
Every major landmark the city skyline has to offer — from the iconic Harland and Wolff cranes to Cavehill, St Anne’s Cathedral and Belfast City Hospital — are in plain view, a definite selling point for this recently completed £75m development.
And, depending on which half-million pound penthouse you are in, you can even see Scrabo Tower perched some 12 miles away on a clear day.
These spectacular sights are not just limited to the top floors of Belfast’s tallest building.
In fact they begin on the first, something the developers, Karl Properties, are proud of most.
A show home on the third floor boasts beautiful views of the Lagan.
Every inch of the modest two-bedroom apartment, which has a price tag of around £230,000, has been designed to fully exploit the view.
It is this aspect Karl Properties are hoping will impress prospective buyers — and help shake off a very recent unflattering label.
Last month the Obel complex was nominated as one of the UK’s worst buildings.
Each year Building Design, a weekly newspaper for architects, runs the Carbuncle Cup, a prize awarded to the nation’s ugliest building.
The Obel complex was shortlisted along with St Anne’s Square and The Boat.
St Anne’s Square came in for most criticism and remains in the final six, while comments left by one reader about the Obel development were far from complimentary.
‘Neil’ wrote: “This is understood to be the tallest building in Ireland.
“It greets its main street frontage with a confused sub-barcode that meets an uncomfortable lump of clad stone, that emerges in a south-facing glazed oven.”
Karl Properties director Gayle Boyce shrugs off the criticism arguing the assessment was made without having seen the final product.
“Honestly when we saw it had been listed I think we were a bit shocked,” she said. “To be fair only a handful of people have complained and I think only one person nominated. It’s not a fair dissection of the community.
“It was also not a fair assessment.
“I think no-one really has the right to criticise anything, whether it’s a restaurant or a building, unless they have been in it or tried it.”
She added: “While everyone is entitled to their opinion this person has not had the experience of the building.”
And it seems not everyone shares Neil’s view.
Last year the Obel complex was selected by Constructing Excellence in Northern Ireland as a “demonstration of design quality using modern methods of construction”.
But the real test for Karl Properties will be in the uptake of buyers.
So far 189 of the 282 apartments, studios, duplexes and penthouses in the tower have been sold, with several of those having just reached completion this week.
And two weeks ago Obel Tower’s first official resident moved in.
But while the residential aspect of the development seems to be weathering the economic storm, the commercial side has yet to take off.
Originally the smaller building next to the tower was to house a hotel but those plans have since fallen through.
In a bid to overcome the setback, the developers have decided to turn the space into 49 further apartments which will go on sale this autumn.
Obel has also not had any firm commitments from retailers but Mrs Boyce is not too concerned.
“There has been some interest from retailers, and we have been in talks but the space is not filled,” she said.
Neither is she worried about buyers not being able to complete their contracts, as has been the case with other new developments.
“Most of our apartments were sold in 2005, before the boom, so prices are fairly the same,” she said.