JD Wetherspoon buys landmark Belfast Methodist church site for £800k
Pub chain Wetherspoon has bought a former Methodist Church in the university area of Belfast for almost double its £400,000 asking price.
The sale of the landmark listed building between University Road and Fountainville Avenue was completed yesterday for JD Wetherspoon by commercial property agents DTZ McCombe Pierce
The red standstone premises, with interconnecting church halls, had been on the market for £400,000 and though the value of the deal has not been officially confirmed, the agent said there had been "strong interest" in the premises.
It's understood Wetherspoon paid around £800,000 – the latest Northern Ireland deal for the pub chain as negotiations continue over its purchase of the site of the former JJB Sports store at Royal Avenue in the city centre.
Wetherspoon's chairman Tim Martin, who is from Northern Ireland, said: "We are very keen to open another of our pubs in Belfast and are pleased to have purchased this site in University Street.
"We are confident that a Wetherspoon pub will be good for the city and also act as a catalyst for other businesses to invest in Belfast," he added.
But licensed trade advisor, John Morgan of Panther Purchasing Ltd, said the pub chain could face a number of hurdles before the former church becomes a public house.
"While they have secured the property, there will be substantial challenges until it becomes fully licensed premises in terms of securing planning and licensing permission," he said.
The former place of worship, thought to have been deconsecrated in 2010, has a distinctive campanile (or tower) and still retains much of its original architectural features.
Those include a high vaulted timber ceiling as well as decorative plaster cornicing and architrave.
It is the second church in the last year to be identified as a potential licensed premises –Ulsterville Presbyterian Church, a Grade B listed building on Belfast's Lisburn Road, was converted into an upmarket restaurant in a £2.2m investment by Kris Turnbull Studios, a Belfast-based architectural and design consultancy.
Meanwhile, the commercial property market in the north west has been boosted by the sale of a large retail site in Londonderry, according to agents Lambert Smith Hampton.
The property consultancy yesterday confirmed it sold a prime piece of retail property in the city's Ferryquay Street on behalf of a private investor for £2.3m.
The property, halfway between the Richmond Centre and the Foyleside Shopping Centre, is occupied by Poundland and Superdrug.
Lambert Smith Hampton also revealed it recently brokered a deal for a Tesco store in Northampton worth £3.2m on behalf of a private Northern Ireland-based investor.