9th February 2022
- 23 schemes completed or under construction in 2021
- Seven new schemes began construction last year
- Overall, 1,000,000 sq ft of office space completed or underway in 2021
The construction of high-quality office space continued to drive development activity in Belfast in 2021, according to Deloitte’s latest Regional Crane Survey.
The annual Deloitte Regional Crane Survey monitors construction activity in Belfast across a range of sectors including offices, residential, hotels, retail, education and student housing, and is seen as a barometer of developer sentiment and future supply.
Now in its sixth year, the annual Belfast Crane Survey showed that in total 23 major schemes were under construction or completed in Belfast in 2021, slightly fewer than the 24 schemes in 2020 and the 26 built in 2019.
Seven significant projects broke ground in 2021, the same level as 2020 and the joint lowest number since the report began. However, the pipeline for 2022 is healthy for most sectors, with over 650,000 sq ft of office space to be completed across five schemes.
Nine major developments were completed in the city during the year, including three Grade A office buildings, a city centre event space on Royal Avenue and the refurbishment of the Odyssey Pavilion into a new leisure destination.
Nine Grade A office developments were under construction or completed in 2021, amounting to over 1,000,000 sq ft of space. This includes Bedford Square, a part new-build, part refurbishment project comprising 210,000 sq ft of office space on Bedford Street, which will be Deloitte’s new headquarters; and The Paper Exchange, an 11-storey building with 155,000 sq ft of new office floorspace.
The survey found that despite a healthy portfolio of office schemes under construction or complete in 2021, tenancy arrangements have yet to be confirmed for a large proportion of the new space, with recent ‘working from home’ guidelines seeing companies reassess office needs in the short-term.
Residential development in the city centre remained slow, with no new starts in 2021 and only 42 homes completed. However, some smaller projects, below the threshold for the report, are currently underway, providing some expectation of growth in the sector.
The survey shows an emerging trend of rising refurbishments compared to new builds in the city centre, with just over a third (37%) of construction activity consisting of refurbishments.
Simon Bedford, partner in real estate at Deloitte, said: “Despite a number of challenges, the Belfast construction market remained resilient as office space continued to drive the development of the city centre. It’s encouraging to see a healthy pipeline, with 2022 set to be a record-breaking year for office development in the centre. With a move towards collaborative office spaces and a new focus on Environment, Social and Governance, occupiers are demanding more from their workspaces. As we move forward in 2022, these areas may need to diversify to adapt to the future of work.”
Councillor Ryan Murphy, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “It’s really encouraging to see that the construction industry continues to demonstrate resilience in the face of the ongoing pandemic, with a significant number of major schemes either complete or underway. This is good news for the sector and of course remaining buoyant has meant that local jobs have been sustained.
“One of the key priorities within our community plan is delivering significant city centre residential opportunities across all housing types to encourage more people to live in Belfast. Additionally, our Future City Centre Programme is focussed on diversifying how spaces are used within the city centre, as we consider how we move away from a purely retail and office-led model. We want to create a vibrant city that puts the people who live, work and visit here at its heart, so it’s encouraging to see the breadth of development projects across the city as we work towards realising that ambition.”
No new hotel schemes were completed in 2021. The survey found this to be driven by both pandemic-related disruption impacting the tourism and leisure sector and a substantial volume of hotel projects having been completed between 2016-2018. However, a new hotel development began construction in 2021, which is due for completion in 2023. This is the first since a total of 1,200 rooms were finished at hotel projects in 2018.
One retail scheme was completed in Castle Place, creating 34,000 sq ft of space, while work continued on the rebuilding of the listed Bank Buildings.
In the education sector, one student accommodation project was completed in 2021 on York Street, and two further projects continued in the Queen’s area and the vicinity of the new Ulster University campus. One major new start commenced on Nelson Street, an 11-storey building that represents the largest student development since the survey began. Looking ahead, two major education projects are due for completion in 2022 - the Ulster University Belfast campus (Phase 2) and Queen's Student Centre. These projects are due to be completed by the start of the 2022-23 academic year.
Colin Mounstephen, director at Deloitte in Belfast, added: “The survey has reported low numbers of residential development in the city centre over several years, so it would be great to see some of the residential developments move from plan into construction this year.
“With this fresh investment into city-centre living and more measures such as repurposing buildings to fill gaps in demand, renewed focus on placemaking will be central to continuing to attract talent to the centre. We are at the beginning of a longer-term change in the nature of the city centre as sustainability and liveability increasingly come to the forefront of future planning, as seen in the government led ‘Bolder Vision’ document. It will be exciting to see what’s next.”
Photo caption: Pictured outside Deloitte’s new offices at Bedford Square are Councillor Ryan Murphy, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, and Colin Mounstephen, Director at Deloitte.
About the Belfast Crane Survey
This report measures the volume of development taking place across Belfast and its impact. Property types include office, retail, leisure, residential, student accommodation, education and hotels. The areas covered in the report are: The City core, Waterfront, Titanic Quarter, Transport Hub, Inner North and Southern Fringe.
The Crane Survey monitors new schemes or schemes undertaking significant refurbishment of the following:
Office: +25,000 sq ft
Hotels: +35 beds
Retail and leisure: 10,000 sq ft
Residential: 25 units
Education: +10,000 sq ft
The report is carried out by Deloitte’s Northern Ireland Account team in Belfast who have monitored construction across the city. The Deloitte Real Estate team have been closely involved. Field research is then verified with direct industry links and in-house property experts. www.deloitte.co.uk/belfastcranesurvey
In this press release references to “Deloitte” are references to one or more of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (“DTTL”) a UK private company limited by guarantee, and its network of member firms, each of which is a legally separate and independent entity. Please see deloitte.com/about for a detailed description of the legal structure of DTTL and its member firms. Deloitte LLP is a subsidiary of Deloitte NSE LLP, which is a member firm of DTTL, and is among the UK's leading professional services firms. The information contained in this press release is correct at the time of going to press.
For more information, please visit www.deloitte.co.uk.