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Autumn 2018

by Conor Osborne, Co-founder

Against the backdrop of the Belfast International Homecoming Conference this week it is timely for us to look at Belfast’s place and future on the world stage from a business perspective. Anyone who has lived in or visited this city in recent years knows that the people of Belfast are its key strength – educated, loyal, smart, innovative and results-driven.

Its skilled workforce (55% under 40yrs) goes that extra mile to ensure success. Combine this with superb infrastructure, competitive cost of living (approx. index for Belfast v’s London: 61.32 V 81.36) and excellent support packages, and you have the ideal location for international and domestic business to prosper. It is for this reason that Osborne+Co, a privately owned Irish company having developed $2.5bn of end-value projects across 25 countries, including Africa, the Middle East and Asia, has set its sights on Belfast for one of the biggest and most important projects in the company’s history – The Waterside.

Our vision for supporting the future of Belfast is about contributing to and enhancing what is already on offer and securing its position within the international business and creative industries through a more global portal. Over the next five years, The Waterside will deliver more than 1.8 million sq ft of master-planned regeneration development to create a new world-class waterfront destination and re-establish the site’s relationship with the city and the River Lagan. The £450m development will become a focal point of Belfast’s flourishing creative ecosystem, linking East Belfast and the city centre. Planning approval has already been granted for a 25,000 sq metre, 13-storey Grade A Office development which will be operational by 2021.

Successful regeneration is not just about new buildings – it’s about Placemaking. Asking questions, listening, and respecting opinions, histories and ambitions are keys to success. Places that attract people attract the best talent. They are the places that help and support businesses to flourish and cities to succeed, creating synergies and interactions that are more than the sum of their parts. We have brought placemaking visionary, Chris Kane, to become Chair of The Waterside project, and our Director of Construction & Design on the project is Flan McNamara, formerly project lead on the £2BN London Bridge Quarter (& The Shard). We see our development as a tool to help drive workplace and cultural evolution in Belfast, bringing global benchmarks for ‘best in class’ property development to the city to help guide the next chapter in Belfast’s story by providing spaces for firms to grow and compete on the world stage.

On completion, it is hoped The Waterside could create as many as 5,500 jobs, 700 homes, hotel and serviced apartments, vibrant public spaces and almost 850,000 sq ft of contemporary office space. Plans for a pedestrian and cycle bridge will help reconnect this missing piece to the rest of the city and its surrounding neighbourhoods. The masterplan application, which sets out our broader vision for the site, is also making good progress with the city’s planning team. When its transformation is complete, this derelict site will become a world-class destination for 21st-century working, living and entertainment.

Northern Ireland is already a leader in the fields of financial and global business services, aerospace technology, entertainment and digital media and life sciences. It is the number one international investment location for U.S. cyber security development projects and is the top destination globally for fintech development (fDi Markets, FT). The region’s television and film industry is thriving largely due to the success of shows like Game of Thrones. There is creative energy and incredible innovation from organisations such as Queen’s University Belfast, Catalyst Inc and Giant’s Park. We know interest is there, but the perceived lack of desired Grade A office space in the suitable locations, is holding the city back from growing further.

Working across the globe, we collaborate directly with some of the world’s largest multinational companies, such as Intel, HSBC, Santander and Honeywell, to design, build and part-fund their global real estate requirements. Our strong relationships with our network of occupier partners have seen us deliver buildings and solutions across Europe, the Middle East, India and South East Asia but more importantly, our team is now committed to bringing that expertise back home to The Waterside to ensure, for our part, that Belfast is placed firmly with its best foot forward on the global business stage.

The Waterside is a Primetime Sponsor of the Belfast Homecoming Festival; 28th to 30th November 2018.

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