Dundalk man Jim Osborne has worked on spectacular property projects worldwide, from Dubai to Manilla. Now he is moving closer to home for his latest project, a £400million development including a 13-storey office block in Belfast.
The Belfast Waterside project by Vanguard Real Estate, which is 40% owned by Osborne, was given the go-ahead by Belfast City Council last week after councillors approved the first phase one of the development on the former Sirocco site, which includes a 13-storey office building capable of housing 2,500 people.
In an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, the 55-year-old confirmed that almost £20m has already been spent on the Belfast Waterside project to date by the Vanguard partnership, which includes the Birmingham-based Kelly family, and real estate company Graftongate.
Jim was born in Vancouver in 1962, and the family moved to Dundalk when he was just six months old. His father Joe established a civil engineering office in town, and the family also lived in Lisburn, Co Antrim, for a time during the sixties when he was working on the M1 motorway.
Jim followed in his father’s footsteps, studying civil engineering at Trinity College Dublin.
He emigrated to England in 1983, where he worked on a number of significant projects, including Canary Wharf. Since then, he has been a prolific developer and has worked in Hong Kong, where he set up his own company CM International, which employed 500 people in Singapore, Manila, Shanghai and Seoul before returning to Ireland.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph last week, he said, ‘In the past seven years, I’ve developed and delivered somewhere in the region of 7.5 million sq ft of projects.’
The list includes a one million sq ft building for Citi Bank in Manilla, Ikea’s biggest warehouse in the world – at the new airport in Dubai – and the headquarters of Standard Chartered in Accra, Ghana, which was completed last month.
Earlier this month, he completed the $235m sale of a building in Dubai to HSBC, which was built by his Middle Eastern business partnership, Gulf Resources Development and Investment (GRDI).
While this is his first project in Northern Ireland, he said, ‘Coming from Dundalk, Belfast has always been large in our psyche. Half the people I grew up with were transplants from Belfast – from the Markets or the Short Strand.’
The scheme will provide approximately 2,500 jobs when complete, he said, adding that it was ‘only the beginning of our comprehensive vision’ to deliver a mix of office space, city centre homes, a hotel and infrastructure, including a new pedestrian and cycle bridge and high-quality public spaces.
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