Belfast Harbour planning residential high-rise as £137m pledged for further projects
Belfast Harbour has said it plans to invest up to £50m in a high-rise, buy-to-let residential scheme next to the M3 at its City Quays site.
A planning application for the project, which could feature up to 200 units, could be submitted by the end of the year. It comes as work begins on a £50m 16-storey office building at the nearby City Quays 3 site.
The new residential project was among a series of major investments confirmed by senior officials at Belfast Harbour yesterday as they reported a 24% increase in spending to £52m during 2018 and committed £137m in future projects.
Among the new ventures in the pipeline is an expansion of the 45-berth mooring marina next to the Odyssey, which will soon double in size. Water taxis and a new pedestrian and cycle bridge next to the AC Marriott are also being considered as part of efforts to increase the connectivity between the Titanic and City Quays areas.
Releasing its annual report yesterday, the harbour said turnover grew by 11% to £68.8m during 2018, while operating profits increased by 6% to £36m.
During 2018, 5,788 ships arrived at Belfast Harbour. Trade increased by 900,000 tonnes to 24.6 million tonnes, while freight vehicle traffic to and from Britain rose by 3% to 532,000 vehicles.
More than 1.5 million passengers passed through the port for the second year running.
The impact of weather on Northern Ireland's agriculture sector saw demand for animal and grain feed tonnage rise by 7% to 2.3m tonnes.
Exports of aggregates increased by 100,000 tonnes to over 1.5m tonnes at the Belfast port, on the back of demand from the construction sector in Britain.
Belfast Harbour's diversifying interests saw it benefit from income generated from its new film studio project and its expanding City Quays development, which added the AC Marriott Hotel and a new 900-space car park over the year.
Chief executive Joe O'Neill said: "Despite our strong financial performance, Belfast Harbour is operating in a changing environment.
"Diversification of trade has been a long-standing feature of the Belfast Harbour business model. This has helped protect the business from cyclical trends in specific sectors and the long-term decline of others, such as coal imports.
"We have a very significant array of investment projects coming ahead in the next two to three years," he added.
Last year saw the start of £64m in upgrades in facilities at Victoria Terminals 2 and 3, which service ferry routes and container traffic.
"We are completely retooling and replacing all of our cranes in our container terminal and that's around a £40m investment introducing semi-automated cranes to our terminal," Mr O'Neill said.
Commenting on the planned new residential development, he added: "There is an opportunity for us to use one of our remaining sites here in City Quays to develop a mid to large scale residential project.
"We're at the early stages, just going through the consenting and scoping for it, but we can see how we can create an iconic site for that private rented sector accommodation."
David Dobbin, chairman of Belfast Harbour, said: "As a trust port we have to fund our own development.
"Every penny of our net earnings is reinvested into improving and developing our facilities for the benefit of port users and the wider economy.
"At a time when the sector is facing considerable change it is encouraging that our financial performance is generating the funds needed to respond to new challenges and opportunities."