Backing Belfast: Public-private real estate partnership highlights city’s world-class credentials


Key organisations from both the public and private sector have joined together to launch a programme of events designed to showcase Belfast’s unique proposition to the global real estate investment community.

Renewed Ambition is an awareness and engagement partnership focused on positioning Belfast and the wider city region in prime position to take advantage of the opportunity to drive real estate investment and support inclusive economic recovery. It aims to shape how the future of the city is reimagined and act together to deliver that ambition in the months and years ahead.

The Renewed Ambition partnership – including local government, occupiers, developers, the supply chain and more – will deliver a collaborative programme of activity to help ensure strong recovery and growth in Belfast and across the wider region by highlighting its compelling investment proposition globally.

Launching the initiative at PwC’s state-of-the-art HQ in Belfast, Merchant Square, Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour and Chair of the Renewed Ambition Taskforce, said: “A talented, competitive and connected city, Belfast is alive with entrepreneurial spirit, ambition and optimism.

“It paints a picture of a city poised for an exciting economic future with untapped real estate investment opportunities.

“Interest in Belfast and Northern Ireland has perhaps never been greater. Given the unique opportunities that lie ahead of us in relation to dual market access to the UK and Europe, the transition to a green economy, the digital revolution, and the ambitious targets to increase city centre living, this city is poised for a whole new level of investor interest. Working together in partnership will be key to locking in all that opportunity in the years that lie ahead.”

Mr O’Neill continued:

“For too long, real estate has seemed like an unpopular sector but that is no longer the case because the public sector needs the private sector to be a willing partner in the delivery of its own plans, promises and commitments. If we are to achieve the net zero ambitions and targets, we must work in partnership to make those things happen.

“Now, more than ever, with the £1 billion Belfast Region City Deal secured, we are entering a decade of opportunity which will be underpinned by partnership and collaboration across public, private and third sectors. This is the time for us to step up as a sector and play our part as a valued and critical component in the success of this city and wider region reaching its full potential.

“Now more than ever, we must be ambitious and brave in our vision for investment and development in the city and city region.”

With a growing appetite for commercial real estate from investors across the spectrum, Renewed Ambition will have a particular focus on engagement and advocacy as well as targeting specific investor focused events. In addition, it will undertake further research to demonstrate the value that real estate investment brings to wider society.

A recent research report, undertaken by CBRE NI on behalf of Renewed Ambition, found that, since 2015, real estate in Belfast has experienced stellar growth which has only been briefly interrupted by the pandemic. It also highlighted considerable investment opportunities for city centre living and logistics, alongside continued strength in the office sector.

“The ‘Investing in Belfast’s Future: A Real Estate Research Report’ confirmed our strong belief that Belfast and the city region offers a unique investment opportunity, one unmatched on the global real estate market and we look forward to strong recovery and growth in our re-energised capital city,” Mr O’Neill explained.

Renewed Ambition will highlight how Belfast’s attractiveness as an investment location remains strong in a post-Covid world, according to John Walsh, Chief Executive of Belfast City Council.

He said: “The importance of Renewed Ambition’s public-private partnership cannot be underestimated. Partnership is the only way forward.

“Through the ambitions of the Belfast Agenda and the Belfast Region City Deal, we are committed to leveraging our potential to ensure that we are delivering prosperity and inclusive growth for all.

“Belfast remains an extremely attractive investment proposition and coupled with our particular focus on delivering significant city centre residential opportunities across all housing types, collectively, we will ensure the city continues to realise its opportunity to be a truly fantastic place in which to live, work, play and study.”

Kevin MacAllister, PwC’s Northern Ireland Regional Market Leader, said: “As PwC’s largest office outside of London, Merchant Square is a perfect example of the type of office development that we want this city to be renowned for. With modern infrastructure and cutting-edge technology, our office brings together our clients in a way that helps them find solutions to complex problems.

“It is also a sign that we can secure investment from international companies operating across a range of sectors that will attract talent as well as deliver regeneration in our city, making it competitive with other UK and European cities. Our 2022 Economic Outlook found that Belfast is ranked 16th in the top 30 European headquarter locations, surpassing the likes of Frankfurt and Geneva. Northern Ireland is also the top international investment location for US cybersecurity development projects.

“Partnerships like Renewed Ambition will only serve to boost Belfast and Northern Ireland’s appeal to investors, and we are confident that the resulting investment will assist the region to fulfil its economic potential and deliver wider societal benefits for all.”

Organisations that are supporting the Renewed Ambition partnership include: Belfast Harbour, Causeway Asset Management, GRAHAM, Arup, Carson McDowell, KPMG and the Belfast Region City Deal partner councils (Belfast City Council, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Ards and North Down Borough Council, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council).

Launching the Belfast Renewed Ambition public-private real estate partnership are: Dr David Armstrong, Partner – International Development, PwC UK; Cathy Reynolds, Director – City Regeneration & Development, Belfast City Council; Joe O’Neill, Chair of Renewed Ambition and Chief Executive, Belfast Harbour; John Walsh; Chief Executive, Belfast City Council; Ashleen Feeney, Partner – Markets, KPMG in Northern Ireland; Kevin MacAllister, Regional Market Leader – Northern Ireland, PwC UK.

This is the time for us to step up as a sector and play our part as a valued and critical component in the success of this city and wider region reaching its full potential.

Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour and Chair of the Renewed Ambition Taskforce