Cleaver Fulton Rankin examines the future of property development

On Thursday 19 September 2019, leading individuals from Northern Ireland’s property, construction, real estate, hospitality and legal sectors came together to discuss the future of property development, posing the questions “How we work, live and play” and equally as important “How we fund”.

Speakers included Dr. Bill Wolsey, OBE of Beannchor Group, Trevor Leaker of AECOM, Robert Ditty of CBRE UK, Geoff Sharpe of Danske Bank and Stephen Cross of Cleaver Fulton Rankin solicitors, with RSUA President Joan McCoy chairing proceedings.

Trevor Leaker discussed the revolution of office space from individual cubicles in the ‘50’s and the sought after corner office of the ‘80s through to the present day and beyond, with open plan and agile spaces. Trevor not only discussed the possibility of reduced real estate costs through the development of office space, but also the potential increase in revenue and productivity that comes from more positive work environments.

Robert Ditty discussed the up and coming trend of ‘buy-to-rent’ or “multi-family” schemes which offer luxury living.  Such schemes not only offer luxurious apartment living but have shared facilities such as gyms, guest rooms, dining rooms for private entertaining and entertainment areas.  CBRE believes that these schemes, which compliment Belfast City Council’s aim to have 66,000 people living in the city centre by 2035, will be the focus of property investment in the next 3-4 years.

Dr. Bill Wolsey, OBE gave an insight into the changes of the pubs, clubs and restaurant sphere through the troubles and times of peace.  He was keen to stress that the legislative framework for the sector is outdated, allowing entertainment to 3am but only permitting the service of alcohol until 1am.  He believes that if Belfast is to attract the volume of people to achieve city centre living, liquor licensing laws need to adapt to keep up pace with other vibrant cities of the world and so that young people pick Belfast.

Geoff Sharpe and Stephen Cross discussed junior and senior bank debt as well as alternative funding structures.  Geoff also discussed Danske’s office redevelopment which included the Catalyst Fintech Hub where the event took place.  Of particular interest to attendees, was the forward funding financing model which can lead to better return.

The event, hosted by Cleaver Fulton Rankin, concluded with a panel discussion, with many interesting questions posed and answers given due to the timely nature of the event and the enthusiasm, both of the panel and the attendees.

A short video highlighting the important points from the event is available to view here.

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