Build it and they will come

Belfast Harbour takes the lead in addressing Belfast's Grade A office space shortage

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It may be listed online as one of the ‘Ten film quotes we all get wrong’,  but the oft-cited “if you build it they will come” declaration in ‘Field of Dreams’ – borrowed from Theodore Roosevelt - is certainly far from wrong in the context of Belfast Harbour’s approach to its latest landmark project.  A quick Google search reveals the actual film quote to be “if you build it he will come”, but “they” is definitely more appropriate when talking about City Quays.

Belfast Harbour’s £10m, 83,000 square feet City Quays 1 office development – one of the largest of its kind in Northern Ireland since the property crash of 2007 – represents phase 1 of the wider 20-acre, £250m City Quays waterfront regeneration project which will support much-needed construction jobs. Designed to Grade A specification to appeal to inward investors and growing indigenous businesses in the knowledge sectors, the five-storey building is helping to address the shortage of high-end office space in Belfast.

Less than 18-months ago there was less than 150,000 square feet of Grade A office space available in Belfast, something which has been accentuated recently by new inward investment announcements. Belfast Harbour is working with Invest NI to take the lead in addressing this shortage and ensure that potential inward investors have high-end office space in which to locate.        

Speaking about City Quays, Belfast Harbour’s Property Director, Graeme Johnston, said:

“It was with great pride that Belfast Harbour announced before Christmas that Baker & McKenzie, a global firm employing 11,000 people in 77 offices across 47 countries, would be the first tenant in the flagship office scheme. The company pre-let two floors in City Quays which will be home to its new Global Services Centre - set to open in June and create 260 jobs.

Securing a tenant of the calibre of Baker & McKenzie was a major achievement for City Quays and a sure sign of the confidence which the project has already injected into Belfast’s commercial property market. Belfast Harbour is determined to ensure ‘they’ continue to come and are complementing the work of Invest NI in actively pursuing a number of inward investors and indigenous firms which have expressed an interest in City Quays 1. Interest from prospective tenants in the financial and business services, technology and creative industries is currently higher than at any stage in the last five years.

Those prospective tenants not only have the remaining 25,000 square feet at City Quays 1 available, but also a further 124,000 sq ft of Grade A office space at City Quays 2. A £20m investment due for completion in mid-2016 which will help support 600 direct and indirect construction jobs, City Quays 2 will fully complement City Quays 1 by providing a major boost to the Northern Ireland economy and ensuring Belfast has the capacity to meet the growing demand from inward investors for energy efficient high-end office space. Like City Quays 1, it will provide open plan, flexible floor space designed to meet the needs of dynamic, modern enterprises.

To supplement the office space, City Quays 2 will also provide ground floor retail/cafe space and there are plans in train to build an accompanying waterfront hotel. Demand for hotel space in Belfast is strong and, if an operator of suitable experience capable of delivering a best-in-class internationally recognised product can be identified, then a new 150-200-bedroom hotel with supporting multi-storey car park could be open for business by 2017.  

A further element of the vision for City Quays is that it will help finish the task of opening up Belfast’s waterfront to the public and create a seamless link to the city’s historic maritime district. To this end, work is set to start on a new 1.2km walkway which will form part of a continuous link from the Harbour to the Waterfront Hall and beyond to the Stranmillis Embankment along the river Lagan. Opening in June 2015, the 5,000 square metre walkway represents the first phase of the connectivity project which will support pedestrian and cycle access to City Quays as well as becoming an attractive new space for visitors and locals to enjoy.”

For a modern, cutting-edge development such as City Quays, sustainability is vital. The credentials most certainly stack up, with 85% of materials coming from within 25 miles of the City Quays 1 site, 97% of waste being diverted from landfill and waste from the nearby University of Ulster site being used as aggregate. There is 100% LED lighting, while a BREEAM Excellent rating places City Quays 1 in the top 10% of the UK’s non-domestic buildings.

The next few months are set to be a landmark period for Belfast Harbour, as the final touches to City Quays are made and Baker & McKenzie open for business. The project is an exciting opportunity to progress the historic regeneration of Belfast’s waterfront, creating a rejuvenated area stretching from Clarendon Dock to Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. By meeting the demand for high-end office space Belfast Harbour is fulfilling its mission of growing the economy and creating jobs, while the hotel, residential and retail aspects of the project will reinvigorate the city. Belfast Harbour is building it, now let them come.