Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's commercial property sector enjoying good start to year, reveals report

By John Mulgrew

Northern Ireland's commercial property market has had a strong start to the year and is not feeling the effects of uncertainty over a potential UK exit from the EU, a new report has said.

A report by the CBRE says that activity for the first two months of the year has been "quite encouraging".

That was despite "turmoil on global financial markets since the beginning of 2016, increased focus on the potential implications of Brexit" as well as bad business news closer to home.

And some of the new additions to Belfast's retail landscape include the sister brand of Spanish retail success story Zara, Stradivarius.

It is launching its first Northern Ireland store at Donegall Place, with work due to begin soon.

The label, which is aimed at women aged between 20 and 35, was established in 1994. It arrived in the UK last year.

Meanwhile, Ed's Easy Diner is in the middle of fitting out its second store in Belfast's Castle Lane, after launching its first restaurant on the Boucher Road last year.

Other lettings include Danish retailer Tiger, likened to "Ikea without the furniture", also located at Castle Lane.

The CBRE says that "occupancy rates in the retail sector continue to improve, on the main high streets and better performing retail schemes".

Nationwide is also soon to move into its new home at Donegall Place, moving from the Scottish Mutual Building, which is being turned into a hotel.

Plans have now been submitted for the new location, with work expected to begin soon. The CBRE also said there had been an uplift in demand for office space and industrial buildings.

That includes Boston tech firm Cayan, which announced plans to expand into the City Quays building.

The report says "appetite also remains strong for investment assets that are currently being marketed". Some of the big commercial properties currently on the market include Tesco Extra in Craigavon.

But a number of others have already crossed the line, or are at the final stages of being sold.

They include Junction One and The Outlet. The Belfast Telegraph revealed in January that both retail sites had been sold for less than their asking price of £58m.

Meanwhile, Bloomfield Shopping Centre in Bangor was sold to investment fund Ellandi for £54m.

The report says "one of the most noteworthy investment properties to come onto the market since Christmas and which is generating considerable interest is The Gateway office building in Belfast, which is guiding £29m". And according to the CBRE, it expects a number of hotels to go on the market in Belfast over the next few months.

That includes the Balmoral Hotel in west Belfast, which is now on sale.

A lack of grade A office space in Belfast also means rents here will "continue to increase over the course of the year".

Belfast Telegraph