Deals to take on commercial property space in Belfast down 24 per cent in 2019

Citigroup's £34m purchase of the Gateway Building in the Titanic Quarter was among the biggest commercial deals of 2019
Ryan McAleer

THE number of deals to take on commercial property space in Belfast fell 24 per cent during 2019, a new report out today shows.

Commercial real estate specialists CBRE said 517,380 sq ft of office space was taken-up across 64 transactions in the city last year.

That compares with the 885,023 sq ft of space taken in 84 deals across the city during 2018, a year dominated by a series of major contracts including PwC's move to Merchant Square, Allstate's new headquarters and the Northern Ireland Civil Service's move to 9 Lanyon Place.

Last year's key deals included Deloitte taking 80,000 sq ft at The Ewart; Rapid7 taking close to 48,000 sq ft at Chichester House; and PwC committing to an additional 46,000 sq ft at Merchant Square.

While the office space take-up was down on 2018, it remained above 2017 levels.

CBRE said the Northern Ireland commercial property market finished the year in a much stronger position than anticipated.

A total of £212m was invested in 32 separate transactions, including Sprucefield Retail Park in Belfast and Crescent Link Retail Park in Derry, which were sold for £40m and £30m respectively, as well as the Gateway Building at Titanic Quarter, which was purchased for over £34m by Citigroup in April.

But the sum is down in recent years. CBRE recorded £316m worth of investment deals in 43 transactions during 2017, with £248m spent in 36 deals during 2016.

Nevertheless, Gavin Elliott, capital markets director at CBRE said the volumes of investment recorded was higher than first anticipated at the beginning of 2019.

“With the UK likely to leave the EU on the 31st January 2020, we believe that the unique position of Belfast as a pivot city between Dublin, London and Europe should begin to realise greater interest from real estate investors throughout 2020.”

CBRE's office agency director, David Wright, added: “Over the past number of years, strong occupier activity, particularly from the technology/FDI and creative industries sectors, has helped reinforce the resilience of our office market amidst the wider economic and political challenges that Northern Ireland has faced.

“We are pleased that figures recorded in 2019 were up on the rolling five-year average, and with a number of large office requirements set to be announced in the local market in early 2020, we expect to hit the ground running in the new year.”

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