Belfast office market remains buoyant after strong end to year

Exterior view of Linen Loft on Belfast's Adelaide Street
Gary McDonald Business Editor

AFTER a relatively slow start in the first half of 2017, the office market in Northern Ireland has finished the year in a strong position, according to statistics from commercial agents CBRE.

In the first six months of the year just 14 transactions were completed, taking up just shy of 165,000 sq ft of floor space.

But there were 33 transactions completed from July onwards, bringing the yearly total of office take-up to 430,290 sq ft. The five-year annual rolling average equates to 385,034 sq ft.

CBRE director David Wright said: “The low volume of transactions and take-up recorded in the first half of the year was not an accurate reflection of the activity in the local office market.

“Take-up in the last six months has emanated from a wide range of foreign direct investment companies taking new space, as well as local companies relocating into larger office accommodation due to significant growth in their own respective businesses.

“And going forward, interest in the market remains healthy and the take-up recorded in the second half of 2017 strongly supports this view.”

Notable deals completed in 2017 include HMRC at Erskine House, HCL at Millennium House, Grant Thornton at Donegall Square West, First Derivatives at The Weaving Works, Deloitte at Lincoln Building and TP iCAP, Wireless Group and ITV at City Quays 2.

Headline rents for best in class buildings have reflected £20 per sq ft to £21.50 per sq ft, and CBRE anticipates rents increasing during 2018 to £22.50 per sq ft.

Mr Wright added: “Refurbished properties such as Linen Loft, Flax House, The Weaving Works and Lincoln Building have delivered much needed stock into the market and the completion of River House in the second quarter of 2018 will provide a further boost to supply and choice in the market.”

Significant projects for 2018 include the 212,000 sq ft Merchant Square building on Wellington Place with works due to begin early this year with delivery expected in the first quarter of 2019, and Chichester House (46,000 sq ft), which is currently on site.

A number of other grade A office schemes have planning permission in Belfast city centre, although in the absence of a major pre-let many are unlikely to start in 2018.

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