Belfast Telegraph

It's vital Belfast gains top grade for office space

By William McCulla

There are many reasons to invest in Northern Ireland, from our skilled workforce to our advanced infrastructure, competitive costs and excellent support packages.

Invest NI recognises the importance of available office accommodation here to supporting business growth and attract new investors. We recently published a property research report which examined the availability of grade A office space in Northern Ireland, emphasising the importance of property to drive economic growth here. The problems in the property market have been well documented over the last few years. While demand for grade A office accommodation has remained relatively steady over the past three years, with limited new development taking place, the supply has fallen.

In order to stimulate the development of new grade A office accommodation, we have developed a scheme to help ensure that Northern Ireland has enough space to meet future demand. We launched the scheme on May 1 to provide commercial loans towards the development of new grade A accommodation and we are now accepting applications until August 31, from private sector developers who meet our eligibility criteria.

In doing this we have recognised the importance of ensuring that Northern Ireland can offer potential and existing investors a variety and choice of high specification, flexible accommodation. Ultimately, it will be the private sector that will put this in place, but we hope this scheme will provide a catalyst to ensure this happens.

Contrary to a recent article that stipulated that we have limited commercial understanding of the property market in Northern Ireland, Invest NI is aware and completely understands that for property developers to provide grade A office space, and indeed funders to support the developers, developments must be viable. Following a long period of rental stagnation, the market price is increasing.

Invest NI is aware of recent transactions within Belfast city centre that have completed at more than £15 per sq ft and asking prices continue to increase. Grade A rentals are reported to have increased by 19% in the past year and are now moving towards the £17/18 per sq ft required to make development viable.

Developers should visit

  • William McCulla, Invest NI director of corporate finance and property solutions, on grade A office space in Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph