Speculative Belfast office project given £20m from Executive-backed loan scheme to plug void created by pandemic

Digitally rendered image of The Paper Exhange project in Belfast.
Ryan McAleer

ONE of the largest speculative office developments under construction in Belfast has received £20 million from an Executive backed loan scheme.

Co Down investment firm Wirefox is behind the £45m Paper Exchange project on Chichester Street in the city centre.

Set to be completed by the end of 2022, the 200,000 sq ft building will be capable of accommodating up to 2,000 workers.

Derry construction firm Heron Bros is constructing the 11-storey building, which Wirefox expects will have a market value of around £70m.

Wirefox said yesterday that the project remains on target following the commitment of a £20m loan facility from the Northern Ireland Investment Fund (NIIF).

The fund, managed by CBRE, received £100m from the Department of Finance in 2017 to provide debt or equity finance for commercial property.

The money was provided by Stormont’s Financial Transactions Capital (FTC) funding pot, which supports infrastructure projects through loans.

Will Church from CBRE said the NIIF had plugged a hole in financing created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We are delighted that the Northern Ireland Investment Fund was able to fill the funding void left because of the Covid-19 pandemic and enable development to continue at this flagship site.

"The development draws major foreign investment into Northern Ireland at a critical period for the economy.”

Finance Minister, Conor Murphy welcomed the development.

“At what is a challenging time for our economy, this investment, underpinned by Executive support in the form of FTC will benefit the local construction sector and help boost inward investment," he said.

"I congratulate all those involved in bringing this project to fruition."

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