BE Offices today announces it has signed a joint venture partnership with the family owned Straidorn Properties to create and manage its new flexible workspace offering at the iconic Custom House in Belfast.
The deal will see BE Offices managing the 58,000 sq ft building on Straidorn’s behalf by way of an innovative JV management agreement designed to align both parties in delivering Belfast’s premier flexible workspace.
Custom House was acquired by Straidorn in November 2020, bringing it back into the hands of local ownership through Co. Down businessman Neil McKibbin, who purchased the Grade B+ listed building for an undisclosed sum from Mapeley.
Following an investment of over £6 million, to include a full refurbishment of the building, Custom House is being restored to its former glory and upgraded to create the finest office space in Belfast. Great importance has been placed on preserving and enhancing the building’s heritage during renovations while ensuring its place as a 21st Century, leading-edge destination.
The building will offer wellness pods, a complimentary gym, shower and changing facilities, bike storage, barista bar and a podcast room, as well as an extensive suite of indoor and outdoor event spaces and conference and meeting room facilities. A dedicated BE hospitality team will be on hand to deliver its award-winning customer service and support.
Jonathan Weinbrenn, Managing Director of BE Offices’ managed workspace division, BE.Spoke, leading the project, commented: “The impacts of Covid on the office world have only exacerbated demand for better, healthier workspaces – human-centric environments underpinned by hospitality, rich in amenities and embedded with technology. Custom House provides the perfect template to deliver a post pandemic remedy. In conjunction with Straidorn, we are creating a hugely desirable working environment which will set a new standard in the Belfast market.
“We seized the opportunity to partner with Neil, whose entrepreneurial flair and laser focused vision for re-igniting Custom House to its glory days, perfectly matched our ambition.”
Neil McKibbin, Director of Straidorn Properties commented: “Since acquiring the building we have been focused on creating and delivering a product that fits the evolving demands of occupiers and create spaces for people to engage with and use offices for work, social interaction, collaboration, and creative ideas. To fully deliver this we required “best in class” levels of service provision and we are therefore delighted to enter into partnership with BE to create a workspace ecosystem with flexibility at its heart, set within a jewel of Belfast’s build heritage.
“We have totally refurbished the building in a sympathetic manner that future-proofs it for the next 30 years and enables anyone to come and use this fabulous facility – from a single co-worker to 150-person office. We see this as an anchor scheme for the regeneration of a key area of Belfast city centre where vibrant cultural activities in Custom House Square can complement creative workspace alongside one another.”
The iconic Custom House, situated in Custom House Square, was designed by one of Belfast’s leading architects Sir Charles Lanyon and built between 1854 and 1857 by D & J Fulton. Throughout its history it has been subject to various remodelling schemes but has retained some of its original period features, including the central staircase and a number of decorative carvings which include three figures depicting Neptune, Mercury and Britannia.
BE Offices already has a presence in Belfast through its BE.Spoke brand, having secured 23,000 sq ft at Adelaide Exchange in October 2018 on behalf of one of the big four international professional services firms. BE Offices’ new serviced offices offering at Custom House will now significantly enhance its flexible workspace offering in the Northern Irish capital.
Mark Riddell of Riddell McKibbin acted for Straidorn Properties while BE Offices was advised by Douglas Green of g8 Consult. Funding for the development has been provided via Straidorn’s long standing relationship with Danske Bank.
Opening in summer 2022, BE Offices are pursuing WELL Certification for the building via the International WELL Building Institute (IWBI) through the WELL v2 pilot, the next version of the WELL Building Standard (WELL). WELL is focused exclusively on the ways that buildings and communities, and everything in them, can improve occupier comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance, occupier health and well-being. Now registered for this leading building certification program, Custom House will seek to be Northern Ireland’s first WELL Certified building.