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Derelict guesthouse in Belfast sold for twice asking price

By Margaret Canning

Published 22/01/2016

The property on Botanic Avenue in Belfast
The property on Botanic Avenue in Belfast

A derelict guesthouse on south Belfast's leafy Botanic Avenue has been sold for £606,000 - more than double its original asking price.

The former Botanic Lodge took just four weeks to sell after going on the market for £295,000, according to agents Osborne King.

They said the property had attracted "keen interest from investors", although the buyer's identity is unknown.

Planning permission for 23 apartments and a few shops at the site was granted in 2009 but has since lapsed.

The Botanic Avenue area is close to Queen's University, and home to large numbers of students. In recent times, its commercial units have become dominated by fast-food restaurants and takeaways.

Liam McAuley, a surveyor at property advisors GVA NI, said there had been "stiff competition" for the site, which he acquired on behalf of an investor.

"It will be our intention to redevelop the building, which we are excited about," he added.

Carole Howard, an Alliance Party councillor and deputy chairperson of Belfast City Council's city growth and regeneration committee, said the purchase was good news for the area.

"Botanic Avenue is currently home to a lot of restaurants and takeaways - we need those, but we also need a good mix of other businesses," she insisted.

The councillor also said a hotel development could make sense for the area. "With the extension to the Waterfront Hall, we will require more hotel rooms to meet demand," she added.

"Not everyone wishes to stay in the city centre, so another hotel in an area such as Botanic Avenue could work out well."

Richard McCaig, from Osborne King, said: "The speed with which this deal was completed reflects the intense amount of interest in this particular development opportunity and suggests that market confidence has grown significantly over the past couple of years.

"We are now seeing the gradual return of buyers, many of whom are cash buyers, willing to acquire and develop property on a speculative basis.

"There can be little doubt that the commercial property market is moving forward at last, and given the level of interest that this sale generated, there is clearly demand for similar investment and development opportunities within this part of Belfast."

Madisons Hotel on Botanic Avenue is set to be sold next month. The hotel was formerly owned by pub group Botanic Inns.

It is understood developer Shamus Jennings - best known for developing St Anne's Square in the city centre - has agreed to pay £1.75m for the hotel.

The Belfast Telegraph also revealed last week that the Botanic Inn had been sold to Mooney Hotel Group for £2.5m, while The Kings Head has been sold to Wine Inns for £2.2m.

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