Belfast crane numbers reach highest level in a decade after construction uplift

Simon Bedford, partner in the Deloitte real estate practice and Suzanne Wylie, chief executive of Belfast City Council
Gareth McKeown

A JUMP in Belfast hotel developments has seen construction activity in the city centre rise to its highest level in a decade, according to a new report.

The second annual Belfast Crane Survey produced by Deloitte Real Estate, shows a total of 25 schemes under construction in the city centre - 22 of which are set for completion in 2018. This compares with 19 schemes under construction in the city centre a year ago.

The total includes eight new hotels, seven office developments, four student accommodation projects, three residential developments, two new educational facilities and one retail/leisure scheme.

Ongoing development includes The Grand Central Hotel, a 300 room hotel with additional office space on Bedford Street, which is set to complete in June this year. The AC Hotel by Marriott, a 188 room hotel adjacent to Donegall Quay is also set to open in April, with a total of 1,000 new rooms to be completed in eight Belfast hotels in 2018.

Simon Bedford, partner in the Deloitte real estate practice believes continued hotel developments are key to growth in the city.

“Belfast has been enjoying a surge in tourism in recent years and reflective of this, hotel developments continued to be central to Belfast’s story in 2017."

"The new hotel openings will create an exciting period for the city and substantial employment opportunities," he added

Last year also saw work commence on 194,787 sq ft of new office space across four developments. This brings the total office space under construction to 453,385 sq ft, almost half of which is the significant refurbishment of existing office space. The figures include the redevelopment of The Weaving Works in Belfast’s Linen Quarter and the revamp of the historic Ormeau Baths into a co-working space.

While no new student accommodation projects broke ground in 2017, work is ongoing on five major schemes that will provide more than 2,000 purpose built units for students of Queen’s University and Ulster University. Construction continues on 840,000 sq ft of new education space in the city.

Residential development in the city centre grew at a slower pace than other sectors, with 180 new residential units currently under construction. However, Deloitte has said that with schemes like the Belfast Rapid Transit project improving transport links, momentum in the residential market will continue to recover.

Looking ahead Mr Bedford said the outlook for 2018 is "promising", particularly if proposed schemes gain planning approval.

“Student accommodation and hotel schemes currently under construction – many of which commenced during a surge in 2016 – are all due to be completed in 2018, which will result in a busy year that will have a considerable positive impact on Belfast.”

Chief executive at Belfast City Council said the survey shows investors continue to see great opportunity in Belfast.

"Tourism growth is driving new hotel building and there is still demand for Grade A office space from local and international companies. It is encouraging that the crane survey shows there are signs of growth in city centre residential development, which Belfast City Council has identified as a key future driver of the city’s economy. In The Belfast Agenda, the city has set out ambitious targets, including attracting thousands more people to live in the city and creating thousands of new jobs by 2035. With plans emerging for new accommodation and improvements to infrastructure, those goals remain achievable.”

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