Belfast: A City on the Crest of a Wave

Belfast is quickly establishing itself as one of the UK’s must-visit cities and Belfast’s regeneration is showing no signs of slowing down.

The Northern Irish capital has undergone some drastic transformations over the past decade which have in turn regenerated the city and cemented it as the next big destination.

Boasting a thriving tourism market and increased investment has ensured that Belfast is on the crest of a significant wave with the cities popularity expected to continue to grow.

Tourism Figures

In 2016, there were an estimated 4.6 million overnight trips to Northern Ireland which equates to almost a third of all tourism traffic to the region.

This strong performance is reflected in the cities hotel industry which in 2016 saw 991,000 hotel rooms sold at an average price of £77.95 per night, marking an increase of 4.1%.

An annual industry survey from ASM Chartered Accountants uncovered that hotel occupancy in Belfast also grew with record high figures of 83.5%, a significant increase on the previous year where occupancy sat at 77.5%.

This brought in a spend of £851 million for overnight trips alone with the city of Belfast accounting for around £335 million of that figure.

From shopping to culture and world-class entertainment facilities, Belfast has welcomed some fantastic tourism landmarks that have helped to increase the cities offering to visitors.

The cities rich past has been the driving force behind many of Belfast’s most popular tourist destinations such as the Titanic Belfast, Ulster Museum and Belfast Castle which have all received significant investment and transformed key areas in the city.

Titanic Belfast

The development of these tourist attractions has further fuelled a drive in the hotel market with many high profile developers investing in the city of Belfast to provide guests with a base to stay.

Colin Neill, chief executive of Hospitality Ulster commented; “Today’s tourism statistics show the importance of the sector to Northern Ireland’s economy and demonstrate not only how more tourists are visiting the region but are also spending more money as the hospitality sector continues to grow and add value to the economy.

“In Belfast, there was an increase of almost £60m in terms of tourism spend in 2016 compared to 2015.”

These figures are expected to keep on rising with significant development projects in place for the next couple of years including the Linen Quarter, the City Quays project at Belfast Harbour and several hotel developments including those by Signature Living.

Regeneration

 From the mid-1990s to 2007, Northern Ireland experienced one of its most economically prosperous and politically stable periods. However, the global economic downturn hit the country hard with a fall in employment, investment and the housing market.

Following a period of uncertainty, Belfast fought back and is now emerging from the recession as one of the most upcoming cities in the UK with growth across all areas.

In 2015, the council created a £18.7 million City Centre Investment Fund to support the implementation of projects which help towards the continued regeneration of Belfast.

The council have been working hard to ignite Belfast as a tourism hotspot investing vital funds into the regeneration of key areas for business, leisure and tourism purposes.

The council set out a City Centre Regeneration and Investment Strategy which pinpoints key action areas which include the Inner North, North East Quarter and Oxford Street & the Earner Bank as well as focusing on the transport hub.

Belfast: a City on the Rise

The Belfast regeneration strategy outlines; “Belfast has done well in recent decades to improve an economically dynamic and attractive city centre. It has, however, some way to go in comparison to other European cities of comparable size.

“It needs more; more people working and living in the centre, more visitors, more attractions, more commerce, more jobs, more street life and nightlife, more trees, more in-migrants and more development. More serenity, more bustle, more buzz. It is the combination of all those elements that makes a great city centre, that provides the self-fuelling chemistry for regeneration.”

There are a number of large-scale projects underway in Belfast which will reignite specific areas and help to establish the cities offering to both locals and visitors.

Increased tourism figures highlight that the regeneration programme is working and attracting new people from all over the world.

International Recognition

Belfast is a city that is being recognised in many forms.

In November 2017, the city was crowned 2017’s Rising Star at the National Geographic Traveller Reader Awards in London. This prestigious award was a great indicator of public opinion and certified that Belfast is a city to look out for.

Another prestigious award came from international travel guide group, Lonely Planet, who placed Belfast as the best place to visit in 2018 alongside the spectacular Causeway Coast.

Not only did this firmly pin Belfast on the traveller’s map but it was also the only area in the UK to make it into the Lonely Guide list, let alone to sit at the number one spot.

Investment in Northern Ireland

Investment in Northern Ireland continues to grow as the region boasts many highly attractive traits ensuring it is no surprise that almost 80% of investors have reinvested.

Around 900 international companies have also invested in Northern Ireland including Seagate Technology, Fujitsu, Bombardier Aerospace, Microsoft, Citi and Liberty Mutua to name a few.

In Belfast around 1,100 new hotel bedrooms are currently under development as well as three hotels by Liverpool-based hotelier, Signature Living including that of prominent heritage sites including The Scottish Mutual Building which will become The George Best Hotel, the former Crumlin Road Courthouse which will be transformed into The Lanyon Hotel and the former War Memorial Building on Waring Street which will become The Waring Hotel.

The Lanyon Hotel in Belfast

This increases the cities offering encourages healthy competition for developers and operators to continue to produce world-class facilities which improve the cities standing as a modern destination.

Belfast furthermore has a reputation for being one of the safest cities in the UK which again benefits the local and tourism community massively.

The combination of a young population, high-quality education and thriving tourism market is clearly an attractive offer for international investors and as more and more developments get underway, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved.

Scottish Mutual Building in Belfast

Furthermore, recent research conducted by CBRE identified Belfast as the third fastest growing office market in the world just behind Bangkok and Stockholm.

Demand for prime office space in Belfast positioned it ahead of other in-demand cities including New York and Amsterdam with an office rental growth of 14.3 percent year on year.

Thanks to a demand from business service firms and media, technology and telecoms companies, the office market in Belfast is experiencing an exciting boom which is expected to carry forward into the future.

The Waring Hotel

There is no doubt that Belfast is a city on the rise and you can become a part of it. Signature Investments have many developments underway that will certainly contribute to the city’s growth.

Discover the exciting project coming to Belfast from the Signature Living Group and become an investor today. Click here for our latest developments or get in touch today. 

The Signature Living Story

Many people have heard of Signature Living, but many don’t know the story behind it all. Who is Lawrence Kenwright and how did Signature Living become one of the leading accommodation providers in Liverpool.

I started Signature Living on the 14th of August 2008 with just a single apartment on Victoria Street which was purchased from a liquidation I went through just a few years previous.

I was a victim, like many others, of the collapse of the financial market in 2006-2007 which resulted in me losing all of my assets.

After purchasing the whole Victoria Street block, we found one particularly large apartment which we decided to put 15 beds in. The larger apartments were booked out 6 months in advance and at this point we knew we were really onto something. We created something which unbeknown to us, was desperately needed. Stag parties, hen do’s and birthday groups needed large accommodation and Liverpool was the perfect city to host them.

This is when Signature Living as we know today was really born.

Since that financial crisis and coming back from the brink, we now own and operate three hotels, three apartment blocks, two restaurants, and a spa within our 30 James Street Hotel.

Over the next few years, we have a whole host of new developments in the pipeline, some of which are already underway across the rest of the UK and Europe.

The Signature Living you see today is worlds away from that one apartment we had on Victoria Street in 2008, and here is my story.
 

Taking Dereliction From Our Streets

It is well-known fact that Liverpool has more listed buildings than any other city outside of London, yet more of them are derelict and at risk than any other.

Many of these beautiful buildings have simply been left to rot, causing huge and unmanageable damage which is expensive to repair and in some cases irreversible.

It’s fair to say that Liverpool is on the crest of a wave; tourism in the city is booming with the city welcoming 57.6m visitors last year and was voted 3rd city in the world for the most visited city by Rough Guides. But sadly our commercial offering doesn’t offer the same hope and is arguably the lowest it has ever been. We have over 2.1 million square feet of empty office space in the centre of our city.

Restored Buildings

Thankfully, this issue with regard to our office occupancy levels has been veiled by the huge success that we are experiencing with the erection of many refurbished listed buildings that are now huge beacons attracting new guests to our city. These hotels include;

With the exception of The Shankly Hotel, all of the above have been derelict for many years and are now not only creating jobs but are also creating a lot of intrigue. Each and every one of these buildings is stepped in history, which make them a destination in themselves. Restoring these amazing and historic buildings breathes news life into the city and is so much better than new build properties which are more often than not, bland and boring. I’m more than happy to say that in recent years the restoration of historic buildings in Liverpool has increased and the number of new-build hotels has decreased.

30 James Street- Home of the Titanic
30 James Street- Home of the Titanic

The tourism industry in the city is absolutely booming, four years ago Liverpool had just over 2,400 beds with an average occupancy rate of 71%. There are now more than 7,500 beds reaching an average occupancy rate of 75% an increase of 4%, with weekend occupancy higher still. However, what we really need is to attract more companies to the city as a place of business to fill the hotel beds midweek.

But we can’t expect to maintain and expand our accommodation without the relevant investment. One of the main reasons Liverpool has found itself as a hub for property investors all over the world is due to the UK being seen as a ‘safe haven’ for investors. Especially as other countries are currently experiencing some economic difficulties.

The Shankly Hotel
The Shankly Hotel on Victoria Street

Liverpool’s Investment Potential

There are also a number of other factors which have contributed to the upsurge of property investors in Liverpool. In the capital city of London, market prices are increasing at an unprecedented rate year on year, meaning the return on investment isn’t as good as it could be. These investors have subsequently moved further north to cities such as Manchester and Liverpool. Manchester has become the capital of the North, boasting a huge commercial and tourism industry. The property market in Manchester is at its highest point, making the chances of finding a reasonably priced deal, very rare.

For this reason, Liverpool is now in the top five cities for property investment and development and is one of the most sought after cities in the UK. Overall, property values are still very low and we have an abundance of properties. From an investors point of view, Liverpool is the place to be. The cities popularity is increasing at a remarkable rate and the property market is rife with incredible investment opportunities offering safe and continuous investment.

Abandoned Buildings in Liverpool

In all of my 30 years in business, I have never known so many abandoned units being put up for sale. As the country and its banks have become more stable, they can afford to offload their liquidated assets which they viciously snatched from developers at the beginning of the recession. Unfortunately, I was one of those developers and believe this was a real catalyst in driving our economy even further into the mire.

Flickr/SteHLiverpool
Flickr/SteHLiverpool

Liverpool’s Mayor, Joe Anderson is widely known as a mayor who will help any investor or developer who wants to put their money into this great city. This message is one which should really resonate throughout the entire investment market, not only in Liverpool but also across the rest of the UK and the world. In order to gain more investment in our city, we must make the planning process much easier, this would only entice more investors and ultimately improve the development of Liverpool.

Lyceum Building, Bold Street / liverpoolecho.co.uk
Lyceum Building, Bold Street / liverpoolecho.co.uk

However, it has to be said that there are a number of buildings in our city which have listed status. Due to this, the owners of these buildings are not paying the rates and, therefore, do not have any desire to develop the sites. There are other methods that our conservation department could use which would help to reignite their desire to develop or even sell their properties to others who do wish to restore and develop them.

We do not want to be a city which is associated with dereliction and empty spaces, we have the opportunity to fight back and continue on the path which sets Liverpool as a major city in the UK and Europe for both leisure and business purposes. By making the city more accessible to developers and investors, I believe this can only have a positive effect on our plight of ripping dereliction from the streets of the city centre.

CGI Images Revealed for 60 Old Hall Street

The Signature Living group have revealed exciting CGI plans for their 60 Old Hall Street development which is currently underway.

The development will be Signature Living’s first multipurpose development consisting of residential space, serviced apartments, office space and a ground floor retail unit. This will also be the first commercial office space which Signature Living have developed.

The in-house CGI visualiser has created a series of images of the development including the exterior and the rooftop area of the building.

Co-founder of Signature Living, Lawrence Kenwright says he hopes the multi-million-pound project will be completed in around nine months.

He said: “This will be our first development with office space.

“There is currently 2.1m sq ft of empty office space in Liverpool but not enough of it is quality accommodation.

“60 Old Hall Street, which forms part of Liverpool’s thriving commercial district, will become a landmark building with our redevelopment. We’re really looking forward to getting underway on this project.”

60 Old Hall Street - Running Track

60 Old Hall Street - Gym

The building which was purchased by Signature Living late last year was once called the ‘the ugliest building on Old Hall Street” was purchased by the company for £1.8 million. The new development plans make 60 Old Hall Street an exciting addition to the street which is the centre of the business district in Liverpool.

The exterior plans consist of golden cladding and a curved exterior making it an exciting destination and desirable place to work, live and visit.

The development of 60 Old Hall Street will also be home to a glass box gym and outdoor running track which will boast stunning views of the Liverpool city and the Mersey River from 127ft up.

Signature Living boss Lawrence Kenwright says the gym is set to become a landmark destination; “60 Old Hall Street’s rooftop gym is set to become a landmark destination – this once ugly duckling is being transformed into an impressive attraction which will boast stunning views across Liverpool’s commercial district.

“We are radically transforming the building and I think its features such as this which will make it popular with visitors. This development is yet another milestone in Signature Living’s ambitious plans for 2016.”

60 Old Hall Street - Exterior