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North’s office market reports record 2018 in year of political uncertainty

THE Northern Ireland office market enjoyed a record 2018, with more than double the business reported in the previous year.

CBRE’s latest Real Estate Outlook report shows the office sector in the north is flourishing, with a record 885,023 sq ft of take-up reported across 84 transactions

Notable office deals completed in 2018 include PwC’s move to Merchant Square, the Northern Ireland Civil Service to 9 Lanyon Place and the opening of the new Allstate Belfast base at Mays Meadow.

CBRE managing director, Brian Lavery believes the local office market is well placed to continue on an upward trajectory in 2019.

“Foreign direct investment in the region remains strong and indigenous technology and professional services businesses are growing as the latest office accommodation results indicate,” he said.

“We believe that Northern Ireland can capitalise on ‘north-shoring’ opportunities from London and Dublin going forward into 2019 and beyond despite Brexit dominating the landscape because of the supply of talent and the attractive costs base.

“Currently we only have around 250, 000 sq ft of Grade A office space available fragmented across a number of buildings underpinning the need for more investment in this space. Alongside this office space growth, we are also seeing the green shoots of demand for residential living in the city centre. We believe this is the trend to track in 2019 and beyond as investors across the UK and globally continue to look for opportunities in this area.”

In spite of the relative positivity within the commercial property market, a lack of investment is a cause for concern, with the ongoing political uncertainty cited as factors in a decline in activity.

Key transactions over the last 12 months included the sale of Metro Building in Belfast to a local investor for £21.8m; the £18m acquisition of the NCP Car Park at Montgomery Street, Belfast by CBRE Global Investors; and Belfast Harbour Commissioners’ purchase of the Obel Building for £15.2m.

“At present, Northern Ireland does offer a unique investment opportunity, although success will be dependent on a Brexit deal which prioritises the local business and economy,” Mr Lavery added.

Meanwhile it has been confirmed the Northern Ireland Investment Fund, launched by CBRE Capital Advisors at the start of 2018, has already invested 30 per cent the initial £100m allocation.

CBRE is expecting to announce a suite of additional loans to fund the development of hotels, high-tech research facilities, energy efficiency and industrial infrastructure with employment space in a variety of locations across Northern Ireland in the coming weeks and months.

Source: Irish News