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MIPIM 2018 preview: what does the transformation of Belfast city centre mean for investors, developers and occupiers?

There has been significant public and private sector investment in regeneration projects in recent years which has transformed the City into an exciting place to live, work, study and visit. The number of projects currently on-going and proposed means the transformation will continue and the real estate market will ultimately benefit as a result.

MIPIM, the global property conference, taking place in Cannes on 13 – 16 March 2018, is an excellent opportunity for Belfast to continue to attract inward investment by delivering the message to the premier real estate event that this is a great time of opportunity for Belfast. TLT are delighted to be the lead legal sponsor of the Belfast delegation in 2018, supporting Belfast City Council as they take their positive message onto a global stage.

Attending MIPIM as part of the Belfast delegation, real estate partners Judith Allen and Kevin Murphy, are expecting to see a high level of interest in the impressive Belfast showcase.  And there is a lot to talk about!  The Royal Exchange mixed use development, the enormous Giants Park opportunity on the northern outskirts of the City and the proposed east bank development that takes in the vast Sirocco works site will breathe new life into large parts of the City, presenting exciting opportunities for developers and investors.

The recent launch by Belfast City Council of the Inner North West masterplan, a large mixed use development scheme within the city centre, will further regenerate areas throughout Belfast.

Alongside these regeneration projects, the office, visitor accommodation, event space and education and student accommodation markets have been particularly buoyant, as developers seek to keep up with demand for useable space. This in turn has had a significant impact on commercial and employment opportunities for businesses in Belfast.

There is a real drive to make the city centre an attractive and practical space for locals and visitors alike – taking into account the latest trends in how we live, work and spend our time. The real estate market has a significant role to play in realising that vision.  

Visitor numbers continue to rise and the most obvious knock on effect of this is the need for more visitor accommodation. In 2018, we expect approximately 1,100 new rooms to be ready for occupation, with several new build and extension schemes under construction and more in the planning stage. Demand can often outstrip supply, so there is a need for further investment on top of this.

There is a vibrant arts community, and we have witnessed the redeveloped Lyric Theatre and new Mac theatre in the last decade help with the transformation of the city. There is still opportunity and room for growth in this space. 

Today, Belfast city centre offers brand new, market leading student accommodation with super-fast connectivity, an area that has seen much transformation. One of the drivers for this new wave of student accommodation is the relocation of Ulster University to the city centre.

The knock on opportunity for employers is the volume of hugely talented and excellently educated employees in the market place, in a wide range of areas including IT, financial services, legal services and creative media.

Last year saw another strong year in office take up in Belfast, with some notable transactions completing. Headline rents have increased and commentators expect the figure to continue to grow, but remaining competitive with comparable cities in Great Britain.

Our TLT Belfast office continues to go from strength to strength and we have ambitious plans for our own further growth. The now 60 strong Belfast team has sector specialists across financial services, energy and renewables, public sector and housing, retail, investment and development providing commercial legal advice to a range of clients from entrepreneurial businesses to large corporates and plcs across the region.

TLT have one of the UK's largest real estate groups, with over 100 property lawyers advising on thousands of transactions across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each year. The strong team of specialists are ambitious for their clients who instruct them for their experience, depth of expertise and sector know-how.

This article first appeared in the March edition of Business Eye.

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