Plans submitted for £15 million rental only Belfast development

The proposed entrance for the new Belfast ‘build to rent’ accommodation

A £15 million, first of its kind Belfast rental development has moved a a step closer following the submission of a formal planning application.

Aimed at the ‘millennial’ generation the proposed 19 storey development on Academy Street in the Cathedral Quarter is set to add much-needed residential accommodation to the city centre.

The application is for 105 one and two bed apartments and if approved would be the first so called ‘build to rent’ scheme in Belfast – a popular concept in other major UK and Irish cities.

The model sees apartments purpose-built for rental only, with ownership retained by the building owner. A management company then provides additional services such as 24/7 security, communal space and cafes for long-term tenancies.

The development at Academy Street will include an active ground floor with communal space for tenants, management facilities and proposed space for a café or retail use.

Lacuna / Watkin Jones, the joint venture behind multiple student accommodation schemes in the city centre, have proposed the £15 million investment on the current site of a surface car park and derelict building.

Anthony Best, director of Lacuna developments said the scheme is aimed at young professionals under the age of 35, who are finding it increasingly difficult to get on to the property ladder.

“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.

“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."

Mr Best believes the development will help support Belfast City Council’s ambition to increase city centre living, and create 37,000 new homes by 2035.

“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:

"Within the past four years Lacuna/ Watkin Jones have secured £120 million 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."

Designed by Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, the architects responsible for the nearby Ulster University campus expansion, the submission of the planning application follows a 12 week period of pre-application community consultation led by planning consultants Turley.

Academy Street is fifth development proposed by Lacuna / Watkin Jones in Belfast. Last week, one of the joint venture’s previous student accommodation developments, John Bell House received the award for Private Halls or Residence of the Year from Property Week’s Student Accommodation Awards.Other developments include the recently completed Botanic Studios, former Athletic Stores building on Queen Street, where construction is well progressed, and a fourth application to revise an existing permission for student accommodation at a site on Little Patrick Street.

Speaking in August the developers said that subject to planning approval they hoped that construction at Academy Street would begin before summer 2018, with completion in late 2019/early 2020.

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