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Council welcomes Belfast's biggest office deal

Date: 22 Nov 2018

Belfast City Council has welcomed the city's biggest private-sector office letting deal as PwC becomes the anchor tenant in Merchant Square.

Belfast City Council has welcomed a deal struck by PwC to become the anchor tenant in the city’s Merchant Square development, making it the biggest private-sector office letting deal in Belfast.

Currently based in Waterfront Plaza, PwC’s existing 2,000 staff will relocate to Merchant Square in the summer of 2020. PwC says its plans for further investment and job creation mean it is running out of space in its current Belfast headquarters.

The £70 million Merchant Square complex is being developed by Oakland Holdings, and straddles the junction of Wellington Place and Upper Queen Street, combining the former Oyster House and Royston House. When completed there will be over 200,000 sq feet of Grade A office accommodation on nine floors, with space for more than 3,000 people.

Councillor Donal Lyons, chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee, said: “Our city centre regeneration and investment strategy outlines an exciting vision to develop a world-class city centre for the future and I’m delighted that PwC is part of that vision, creating its largest regional office outside of London here in Belfast, in the exciting Merchant Square development.

"A thriving city centre is vital to the local economy – not just for Belfast, but the entire region – and as part of the Belfast Region City Deal which has been secured, we are aiming to create up to 20,000 new and better jobs alongside delivering a 10 year programme of inclusive economic growth.

“The success and growth of PwC’s Belfast base is proof that our city is delivering for global companies wishing to grow their international markets, and this move to new headquarters within the city demonstrates the firm’s confidence in Belfast.”

PwC in Northern Ireland is PwC UK’s fastest-growing UK region and its largest regional office outside London. Belfast is PwC’s recognised global centre for technology, digital advisory services and research and is a major exporter of technology and regulatory advisory services.

PwC in Northern Ireland recruited over 600 new staff on the past 12 months and has doubled local employment numbers to more than 2,000 in the last two years; largely due to the significant growth of Operate, the firm's innovative operational delivery division.

Announcing the proposed move to local staff, Paul Terrington, Northern Ireland chair and head of UK regions said: “This move underlines the PwC Executive Board’s confidence in Northern Ireland as a location and the success of the firm here. We will continue to grow in local, national and international markets from Belfast, drawing on the technology skills emerging from our schools, universities and colleges.

“In the past year, PwC invested over £50m in the local economy and our decision to relocate to Merchant Square and concentrate our growth plans in Belfast reinforces our belief in the city’s ability to inspire and support the creativity and aspirations of our people, and to help us attract and retain top talent here.

“We are investing in technology and collaborative space to ensure we can work well with clients from across the globe and with local business, education and social and community enterprise. We intend to make Merchant Square an accessible and vibrant part of life in the city.”

With long-established credentials in the technology sector, PwC’s Merchant Square base will be one of the city’s most innovative digital spaces. Taking inspiration from the Frontier development in PwC’s More London office, it will incorporate technology-enabled client collaboration and event space.

Merchant Square will feature a state-of-the-art hub that will provide the infrastructure and environment where visionaries and technology innovators can collaborate, disrupt and create solutions that help clients solve complex problems .

PwC Northern Ireland will remain the firm’s global hub for blockchain, moving operations for this as well as PwC Research and the Google Innovation Lab to Merchant Square.

For some long-tenured staff at PwC Northern Ireland, the move will be a homecoming. Oyster House was the original base for Price Waterhouse, before it merged with Coopers & Lybrand in 1998 and moved to Waterfront Plaza in November 2001.

Speaking on behalf of Oakland Holdings, Gareth Graham said: “Merchant Square will be one of the most striking office buildings ever undertaken in Belfast and will prove a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Belfast City Centre. While we undertook the Merchant Square development speculatively, we believed that the quality of the development would be a major advantage. That has proven to be the case and we are delighted to have secured PwC as the main tenant of the building.

“We designed every element of Merchant Square with the aim of providing the most innovative, attractive and competitive commercial space. We are excited at the potential of Merchant Square and the contribution it will have on the ongoing regeneration of Belfast and Northern Ireland.”

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