Belfast Telegraph

£15m 'build to rent' apartment block plan is a first for Belfast

By John Mulgrew

Belfast's first so-called 'build to rent' apartment scheme has taken a step forward after new plans were submitted for the £15m project.

Holywood firm Lacuna and Welsh developer Watkin Jones plan the 19-storey block on a car park at Academy Street in the Cathedral Quarter.

A full planning application shows the scheme proposes 42 one-bedroom and 63 two-bedroom apartments, along with management suite, cafe and servicing area for bins and cycle storage.

Build to rent apartments are rental only, with secure long-term tenancies from a landlord who retains ownership.

Lacuna and Watkin Jones are behind several student accommodation buildings in Belfast.

The new project is designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.

Anthony Best, director of Lacuna Developments, said: "This is part of a UK regional trend in housing that is popular with young urban professionals and families who want to live in the city centre, corporate renters who require high quality accommodation for their staff, and downsizers who want services to be available within their home.

"It appeals to those who are increasingly choosing quality rented space over home-ownership, those that want to live in quality accommodation in the heart of the city centre.

"We have been delighted by the support that we have received for our proposals during consultation with the Cathedral Quarter's community of residents, business and institutions.

"For an area of the city with its energy and vibrancy, our proposals add a missing ingredient - a long-term stable population of residents who will ensure the area continues to thrive and prosper.

"Belfast is playing catch-up with this shift in residential development and investment.

"Despite ambitious plans to increase the city's population by 66,000 by 2035, our proposal for Academy Street is currently the only build to rent development proposed in the city."

Mark Watkin Jones of Watkin Jones added: "The city is currently experiencing major growth as it becomes a truly global competitor in a UK region with highest levels of foreign direct investment outside London.

"It also has the highest percentage of young people living at home in the UK.

"Within the past four years Lacuna/Watkin Jones have secured £120m of investment in Belfast through our four student accommodation developments, all are either currently completed, under construction or in planning.

"We see build to rent as the next natural step for us in Belfast.

"Academy Street is our next investment in the city, and we are once again choosing to invest because of the city's, as yet, unfulfilled potential."

Last year Lacuna Developments and Watkin Jones Group bought 26-44 Little Patrick Street, which has planning permission for 354 student rooms. It was formerly owned by developer UniCiti.

They plan to increase the size of the scheme, raising the bedroom numbers to 430.

The firms are also behind the now opened John Bell House student development at College Avenue and a new 340-bedroom student scheme at Queen Street on the site of the former Athletic Stores.

And at the end of last year they completed their Botanic Studios student development on the city's Dublin Road.

Belfast Telegraph

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