£16m deal for Robinson & Cleaver building a 'shot in arm' for Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit
The £16m sale of the iconic Robinson & Cleaver building in Belfast to a southern Irish building firm represents a significant boost to Northern Ireland ahead of Brexit, the lawyer who brokered the deal has claimed.
The building, on the corner of Donegall Place and Donegall Square North, has been sold to Dublin-based Furlong Construction Ltd for more than £16m.
Robert Sinclair, managing partner of Robert G Sinclair Solicitors, which acted for the seller, said: "It is an iconic building. The interesting part is that this is a southern Ireland company buying a landmark building in Belfast.
"Furlong Construction is the first southern Irish firm to have done this for a while, but this may be a trend with Brexit coming, because property in Belfast is so much better value as a result.
"We are acting for a number of southern clients who are looking at and buying property and businesses here.
"All of this could be a developing trend, which could be brilliant for Northern Ireland given the uncertainty of Brexit at the moment.
"Robert G Sinclair & Co was very happy to act for this client in this transaction."
Mr Sinclair would not reveal who the seller of the building was, but he did confirm it was a Northern Ireland-based firm.
Mr Sinclair added: "The building has been let out with the exception of the top floor.
"The ground floor is let out commercially and the second floor up has been let to the Government.
"So all of those offices have been redone to a high specification for the Government and they have taken it."
The building, often referred to as Cleaver House, was once occupied by the famous Robinson & Cleaver department store.
Units already occupied in the building include the newly opened Café Parisien. The cafe is owned by Tullymore House Ltd, owner of Ballymena resort the Galgorm, with the new restaurant creating 50 new jobs.
The 100-seater restaurant was formerly called Robinson & Cleaver. However, the famous sweeping staircase which was a major feature of the store is no longer in the building as it was snapped up by business tycoon Edward Haughey, who bought it at auction in 1984. Mr Haughey, known as Lord Ballyedmond, was the multimillionaire owner of Norbrook Pharmaceuticals. He was one of four killed in a helicopter crash in Norfolk in March 2014.
The purchase of Cleaver House comes during a major upturn in commercial property sales in Northern Ireland in recent months.
Spending by investors in commercial property here leapt to nearly £200m in the third quarter as other major assets were sold including the £125m sale of CastleCourt Shopping Centre, the £27.7m sale of a Tesco Extra in Newry, the £11.1m sale of Valley Retail Park in Newtonabbey and the £9.2m sale of the Great Northern Retail Park in Omagh.
The sale of care homes in Armagh and Jordanstown by Priory Group in August to LXi Real Estate Investment Trust for nearly £15m was the biggest deal here in the mixed-use sector in the last quarter.