Business

Belfast office lettings at 'strongest level' in years, CBRE reports

City Quays 1 in Belfast Harbour estate is now fully let

THE take up of office space is at its strongest level in several year, according to the latest analysis of Belfast's commercial property market.

Agents CBRE said more than 158,000 sq ft of accommodation had been let over the first four months of the year - more than three times higher than the figure a year ago.

The movement has helped drive up prime rental rates with top grade office space being let at around £17.50 per sq ft.

The newly increased rates have been aided by a deal in March which saw American insurance firm Allstate agree new terms of £20 per sq ft on its Lanyon Place offices.

CBRE said other high profile deals over the quarter included with Puppetlabs, NBC Universal, Highwire and Genpact.

CBRE director David Wright said it was a "particularly strong start for 2016 in the office lettings market which is showing the most positive signs for a number of years".

"In addition to lettings already made; the BBC are reportedly looking for a new 100,000 sq ft headquarters and HMRC are supposedly looking for 110,000 sq ft in Belfast," he added.

Mr Wright said the rising rates were due in part to a continued scarcity of higher grade office accommodation.

“Grade A space continues to be an issue, however the lack of supply is fuelling rental growth and has been driving prime rents upward in recent months, with them currently standing at £17.50 per sq ft," he said.

On the investment front, CBRE said there had been £55 million worth of transactions signed off in the first fourth months of the year.

Another £75m of deals meanwhile are still in legals.

The hotel sector meanwhile continues to grow with planning permission granted for an 80-bed extension to Jury's Hotel and a new 188-bed hotel at City Quays.

“The investment market has seen a steady stream of activity during Q1 although market sentiment has been adversely affected by concerns surrounding the Brexit vote on June 23," Mr Wright added.

"Assuming a pro-EU outcome we expect that market sentiment will recover quickly, we therefore anticipate greater investor activity during H2 2016 as further assets are released for sale.”

Meanwhile, there appears to be now slowdown in the retail resurgence.

CBRE said toy shop The Entertainer and make-up retailer Inglot are due to open at CastleCourt in the coming months.

Elsewhere, Osborne King has reported fashion retailer Clockwork Orange and frozen yoghurt bar Frolick were taking over new space in Ballymena at Thomas Street and Springwell Street respectively.

And in Lisburn, retro confectionary retailer Sweet Street has opened at Lisburn Square creating four.

Also in the city, new restaurant Beef and Bird has opened at the Leisure Park.

The eatery has been opened by Bronagh and Anthony Campbell - the couple behind the Del Toro restaurant - and created dozens of new jobs.

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