New Deloitte 'crane survey' underlines Belfast's renaissance

Belfast City Council chief executive Suzanne Wylie with Deloitte partner Simon Bedford

CONSTRUCTION in Belfast is at its highest level since 2008, with 11 development schemes completed in the city during 2016, according to a new report from Deloitte.

And its first-ever Belfast 'crane survey' also shows a total of 30 schemes under construction or recently completed in the city, which includes four new educational facilities, seven new student accommodation projects, six office developments and eight new hotels.

The areas covered in the report are the city core, Waterfront, Titanic Quarter, transport hub, inner north and southern fringe, and the survey monitors new or current schemes undertaking significant refurbishment (ie office and retail at a minimum of 10,000 sq ft, residential schemes of 25 units or bigger, and education, leisure and hotel schemes). Highlights include:

• 19 schemes currently under construction, 11 schemes completed in 2016;

• 573,527 sq ft of office space to be completed by 2018;

• More than 1,000 new hotel rooms to boost Belfast's tourism offer; and

• 2,500 student bed spaces under construction.

Simon Bedford, partner in Deloitte's real estate practice, said: “The report shows that Belfast is on an upward trajectory as a location for investment and development.

"The number of developments completed and breaking ground in Belfast during 2016 demonstrates real progress since the release of Belfast City Council's City Centre Investment Framework in 2015.”

The renaissance in Belfast's development is being led by the education and tourism sectors. Two new hotels were completed in 2016 with a further six hotel projects across the city currently under construction, set to deliver in excess of 1,000 new hotel rooms.

Ulster University's move to a larger campus in Belfast will, he said, be "a game changer", with a number of student housing schemes already being built.

The report calculates that almost 2,500 student accommodation bed-spaces across seven projects are currently being built in the city centre area. This is in addition to 413 bed-spaces that completed in 2016. Queen's University is also continuing its investment in new teaching facilities and supporting new student residential development in the city centre.

Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council, said: “Deloitte's report comes at a great time of opportunity for Belfast and demonstrates that private sector developers and investors see the opportunities being created by a growth in tourism, new companies locating here, growth in our own business base and more people, including students, wanting to live in the city centre.

“Over the next five years, the City has, through its recently launched Belfast Agenda, set out more ambitious targets to create 15,000 new jobs, double tourism spend and encourage another £1.5bn of investment in more buildings and regeneration projects to meet demands."

Retail and leisure investment is also healthy said Deloitte, noting that the business rate revaluation is leading to more store openings and new brands coming to the city, filling space in Ann Street, Castle Lane and Castle Court.

But office and residential development activity was subdued and represents a challenge. The report said 84 residential units were completed in the city centre in 2016, but none are scheduled to come to the market in 2017.

Three office developments representing 209,000 sq ft were completed in 2016 and a further three schemes are under construction which will deliver a much needed 364,527 sq ft of office space into the market over 2017/18.

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