Commercial property in Northern Ireland
A&L Goodbody stands out for its 'good communication' and 'considered advice'. Areas of strength for the team include institutional investment, high-value commercial property transactions, and major development projects, including office and student accommodation developments. The team is also highly active advising on large-scale projects in the energy sector. Tracey Schofield, who took over as practice head in January 2019, has handled a number of healthcare sector developments.
Other key lawyers:
‘The team is completely professional and knowledgeable yet so approachable and commercial.‘
‘Each individual will talk through any query, providing considered advice which makes for very timely conclusions. Everyone is prepared to give an opinion and a real view on queries as opposed to simply laying out the overall situation generically, which is very refreshing.‘
La Salle Investment Management
Belfast Harbour Commissioners
McAleer & Rushe
Irish Football Association
Benmore Octopus Healthcare
- Advising EuroAuctions Group on the acquisition of Fraser Homes.
- Acting for Oakland (FRO) Limited on the financing of the re-development of Merchant Square.
- Advising Starwood Capital on the Northern Irish aspects of the purchase of a hotel portfolio from Park Hotels & Resorts, the year’s highest-value hotel acquisition in the market.
- Acting for a Singapore-based real estate owner, developer and manager on the financing for a student accommodation development in York Street, Belfast, by AIB Group (UK) Plc.
- Acting for M7 Real Estate on the acquisition of an office building on Adelaide Street, Belfast, which was the client’s first acquisition in Northern Ireland.
Carson McDowell has 'comprehensive knowledge' and a 'client-friendly approach'. The team advises on local and international investments and major developments in the region, and is noted for its extensive experience in the retail sector, acting for a significant number of retail tenants as well as the landlords of shopping centres and retail parks. Dawson McConkey took over as head of the practice in 2018, following Rosemary Carson's move to a consultancy role; both he and Emma Cooper have particular expertise in the energy sector.
‘The team has outstanding knowledge of commercial property law.‘
‘They offer very professional, down-to-earth advice.‘
Belfast Harbour Commissioners
Belfast International Airport
McAleer & Rushe Group
Northern Ireland Investment Fund
Royal Mail Group
Sports Direct Group
- Advised the shareholders of the Lagan Group on the sale of the entire building materials group to Breedon Holdings (Jersey) Limited, a member of Breedon Group Plc.
- Advising Belfast Harbour Commissioners on the acquisition of the Obel Office Block, one of the landmark buildings in Belfast, which was the year’s largest standalone commercial property acquisition in Belfast city centre.
- Advised Northern Ireland Investment Fund on the financing of the development of one of Belfast’s largest city centre office blocks, the client’s first loan into Northern Ireland.
- Advised Valero Logistics UK on a significant multimillion-pound acquisition of a fuel terminal.
- Acted for the Israeli-based Fattal Hotels Group in its £800m acquisition of a leading chain of hotels across the British Isles for £800m.
Cleaver Fulton Rankin's 'responsive and attentive' team is highly active advising local developers on major residential, commercial, hotel and office developments. In addition, it regularly assists investors with the purchase of property assets and advises on large energy sector projects; other areas of expertise include retail, renewables and telecoms. The team includes the 'well-respected' Kathryn Collie; Joe Marley, who provides 'clear and concise' advice; and Alan McAlister, who specialises in city centre developments.
Joe Marley; Kathryn Collie; Alan McAlister; Jeanette Donohoe
‘Cleaver Fulton Rankin is well resourced to provide comprehensive advice on all aspects of real estate transactions, including planning and environmental. It provides a “one-stop” shop, with strong leadership throughout transactions. Its local knowledge and experience is invaluable.‘
‘Kathryn Collie provides consistent leadership and she has an excellent understanding of clients’ key concerns and objectives. Her knowledge of the market means her advice is pragmatic and effective. Her good humour and calm manner are welcomed.‘
‘Kathryn Collie is a very experienced property solicitor with a wide range of knowledge. Kathryn is also more pragmatic and commercial than many other lawyers, and focuses on the most important aspects of potential deals.‘
‘Cleaver Fulton Rankin is an excellent firm with an impeccable tradition. The team is one of the longest-established dedicated commercial real estate teams in Belfast and the best in Northern Ireland. It boasts a number of exceptional real estate lawyers: their standards are outstanding, they take the time to understand the client’s business, and their attention to detail is excellent.‘
‘Joe Marley has excellent legal knowledge and always acts in the client’s best interests He is a very hard worker and always makes himself available. He is a strong negotiator, but respectful of his peers.‘
‘Alan McAlister has many years experience acting in real estate transactions. He has wide-ranging legal knowledge, both in real estate transactional work and real estate litigation. He is a smart guy and a very easy to deal with.‘
‘Associate Nemonie Fulton is very organised, with great experience and legal knowledge. She is very thorough, patient and diligent.‘
‘The team is well resourced and highly skilled in the delivery of legal solutions.‘
Dalradian Gold Limited
T J Morris (Home Bargains)
Telefonica UK Limited (O2)
Aberdeen Asset Management
Chart Forte (Belfast) Limited
- Advising Titanic Quarter in relation to its iconic mixed-use development, which includes retail, residential, office and hotel developments and a visitors centre.
- Advising Dalradian Gold Limited in relation to a £750m gold-mining project in County Tyrone.
- Advising Home Bargains in its rapid expansion and roll-out of stores throughout Northern Ireland, including the acquisition of Castlebawn Retail Park, Newtownards, for £8.5m.
- Acting for a wholly owned subsidiary of JMW Farms Ltd in the sale of two farms in England to Cranswick Country Foods Plc.
- Advising house builder Latner 10 Developments on the acquisition of development sites through to construction and the sales of individual units.
Pinsent Masons Belfast LLP 'knows the field very well'; the team advises local and international clients on major transactions and developments throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Retail is a key area of expertise, with clients including retailers as well as investors in shopping centres and retail parks. The practice is also active in development finance and advises on projects and transactions in the public and energy sectors. Belfast office head Andrea McIlroy-Rose leads the team, which includes the 'hardworking' and 'responsive' Joanna Robinson.
Other key lawyers:
‘Pinsent Masons has a very joined-up and well-organised team with a wide depth of knowledge and experience across all areas. They are easy people to work with, who will take the time to work with the clients’ teams and will explain complex issues in an easy-to-follow manner. The team builds up good relationships with advisers acting on the other side.‘
‘Jo Robinson stands out for her level of knowledge and experience, negotiation skills, great relationships with developers and the lawyers on the other side, and deal management.‘
‘The team is made up of highly knowledgeable and trust advisers on complex business and legal issues.‘
Vinci Airports SAS
Queen’s University Belfast
- Acting for Vinci Airports in the acquisition of Belfast International Airport, one of the largest transactions of its kind in Northern Ireland during the last year.
- Advising Apex Housing on its five-year refinancing programme with EIB.
- Advising MedicX Fund on the development of Kings Hall as healthcare hub.
- Advising a joint venture comprising two large funds in their proposed first acquisition in Northern Ireland for a student accommodation project in Donegall Street, Belfast.
- Advising Allstate on the development and completion of its new flagship HQ in Belfast.
Tughans has particular expertise in advising UK and international funds on investment and development schemes, including major student accommodation, hotel, commercial and residential projects. The team also advises on real estate finance and property portfolio management. 'Very proactive' practice head David Jones is noted for his experience in advising clients locally, throughout the UK, and in the Republic of Ireland; the team also includes consultant Phyllis Agnew; the 'capable and competent' James Pringle; Joe Moore, who delivers 'prudent commercial advice concisely'; and retail specialist Rebecca Moffett.
‘The practice has real strength and depth in terms of expertise and ability. If you are going to do commercial property business in Northern Ireland, have Tughans on your side.‘
‘Tughans is a multidisciplinary practice, which allows it to give a broad range of advice on different subjects.‘
‘Rebecca Moffett has a strong legal background, good attention to detail, takes a commercial approach and is very personable.‘
‘Tughans offers a very professional service in a very personable manner. The partners draw upon a great depth of experience and are able to offer very sound commercial advice.‘
Tesco Stores Limited
Associated British Foods
- Acted for developer Urban Pulse Warwick in the acquisition and forward funding of a large student accommodation development project, known as Warwick UniVillage, in Canley, Coventry.
- Advising Curlew Capital on the disposal of John Bell House as an investment, following the successful forward funding of its development.
- Advising Mansford Real Estate on the sale of Strabane Retail Park to Lidl NI Gmbh.
- Advising NGD Holdings on the acquisition of Timber Quay, Derry, and associated car park with the reversion in the neighbouring Atlantic Quay, College View, Clipper Quay and Aparthotel complex incorporating both commercial and residential blocks.
- Advising Michael Roden and Merion Property Group on the purchase of Down Royal Racecourse.
Arthur Cox Belfast is noted for its 'good commercial approach to legal issues'. The team acts for a range of local and national developers, retail landlords and tenants, and investors and asset managers; its expertise covers large-scale acquisitions and disposals, land development, and funding. The firm has extensive experience in cross-border transactions, with particular strength in the energy and social housing sectors. Practice head Alastair Todd is 'commercial as well as technically strong'; the team also includes Rowan White and was recently joined by two new associates.
Other key lawyers:
Simple Power No.1 Limited
Four Seasons Healthcare Group
Marathon Asset Management
The Mount Charles Group
Matagorda 2 Ltd
- Advising Simple Power on the disposal of its portfolio of single-turbine onshore wind assets in Northern Ireland.
- Advising Robinson Services on the sale of its former headquarters site in Ballymena to one of Northern Ireland’s largest social housing associations.
- Advising Four Seasons Health Care (FSHC) group on the disposal of a number of trading and redundant premises across Northern Ireland in its property portfolio as well as the Northern Irish aspects of its re-structuring and potential disposal.
- Providing ongoing advice to Domus UK on real estate opportunities in Northern Ireland, including the land assembly for a proposed large-scale city centre office development in Belfast.
- Advising Endeavour Investments on a range of investments, including offices, hotels and mixed-use developments in Northern Ireland, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
DWF has been particularly active for retail sector clients, including advising on the acquisitions and sales of shopping centre and retail park schemes. The team has also handled major hotel and healthcare sector developments and acquisitions. The 'totally accurate and pragmatic' Julie Galbraith took over as practice head from the 'exceptional' Mark Tinman in 2018. Kirsty Mairs regularly acts for local developers. John Palmer moved to Shoosmiths LLP, while Alison Reid joined from John McKee Solicitors.
‘The team is proactive, thorough and most importantly looks to provide solutions as opposed to creating problems.‘
‘Mark Tinman leads the field in Northern Ireland on real estate matters, providing a focus on ensuring transactions proceed to a conclusion with an ability to work alongside his contemporaries in a proactive manner.‘
‘DWF provides a multi-disciplined international service from a local platform. The ability for clients to draw on the firm’s wider expertise from the local office is invaluable.‘
‘DWF has an outstanding team of professionals in Belfast, with an unparalleled breadth of experience and expertise. However, the standout characteristic is its ability to react quickly and to provide quality advice almost instantaneously when required.‘
Marks & Spencer plc
TH UK & Ireland Limited T/a Tim Hortons
- Acted for the UK franchisee of Tim Hortons on acquiring a lease of its first Northern Irish store.
- Acted for Alfred Street Properties on the preparation of new agreements for leases for a number of retailers at the Connswater Retail Park and Shopping Centre.
- Acted for Titanic Quarter on the negotiation of a development agreement for a new Hilton Hotel in Belfast’s prestigious Titanic Quarter.
- Acted for Søstrene Grene on the acquisition of new retail premises in Bangor, Northern Ireland, the client’s third store to open in the region.
- Acted for Bunsen Burgers on the negotiation of a new lease for its first restaurant in the Cathedral Quarter in Belfast.
Millar McCall Wylie LLP's 'responsive, knowledgeable and commercial' team regularly advises international funds on property acquisition and refinancing, as well as acting for landlords and tenants on lease arrangements, and large local developers and builders in relation to residential developments. 'Very strong leader' Peter McCall advises on the acquisition of investment portfolios; Simon Fleming has particular expertise in the retail sector; and Andrew Kerr acts for a number of renewable energy clients.
‘Simon Fleming understands clients’ objectives, keeps them closely appraised during the transaction and deals with any issues that arise in a practical and efficient manner.‘
‘Millar McCall Wylie is full of really good lawyers. Whoever I have dealt with from top to bottom is very impressive and they are extremely responsive.‘
‘Peter McCall is undoubtedly a leader in the real estate field in Northern Ireland. He has vast experience but is very approachable and solution driven.‘
‘In particular, Millar McCall Wylie shows a great ability to progress matters quickly and efficiently. The team would be generally regarded as one of the leading property teams in Northern Ireland and I have always been impressed by their expertise and ability to get the work done on time. In my experience , Millar McCall Wylie has always provided an excellent value for money service.‘
‘Whilst Simon Fleming is a technically excellent lawyer, he is always very commercially minded and can therefore provide an outstanding all-round service.‘
‘Simon Fleming is a really capable lawyer. His technical skills are first class and he is always a very calm influence in the heat of a transaction.‘
Fairfield Real Estate Finance
McAleer & Rushe Group of Companies
MJM Group of Companies
Monsoon Accessorize Ltd
Warren James Jewellers
Edinburgh Woollen Mill/Peacocks Stores Group of Companies
CBRE Global Investors
- Acted for Fairfield as mezzanine funder in the refinance of the Merchant Square development in Belfast city centre being undertaken by the Oakland Group of Companies.
- Acted for Fairfield in the refinance of the Kilmona Group of Companies, which involved the splitting of the large property portfolio across two facilities.
- Advised Eurocharge on the initial leases for its first two stores in Northern Ireland, which opened in 2018, and then in respect of further store openings as the client continues the rollout of its network.
- Acted for the client in the sale of the War Memorial Building in Belfast city centre.
- Acted for NI Screen in relation to the letting of a portion of the refurbished Ormeau Baths serviced office complex.
Davidson McDonnell Solicitors
Property specialist Davidson McDonnell Solicitors' 'very efficient' team shows 'good attention to detail'. The firm has been particularly active advising on student accommodation, residential, hotel and retail developments and acquisitions. Clients include property investors and developers operating throughout Northern Ireland, England and Wales, and the Republic of Ireland. The 'highly regarded' Ross Davidson and David McDonnell lead the team.
Ross Davidson; David McDonnell
Dunluce Capital Management
- Representing Comer Group on the acquisition of Bow Street Mall in Lisburn.
- Advising Wirefox on the sale of Snugborough wind farm in County Cavan.
- Representing Dunluce on the acquisition of Oakmont Lodge care home and the associated operating business.
- Representing Lacuna Developments on the sale of a site at Botanic Link Belfast for a purpose-built student accommodation scheme.
- Acting for Don Holdings on a major hotel development on the north coast of Northern Ireland.
Elliott Duffy Garrett is praised for its 'strength in depth'; the team specialises in advising landlord and tenant clients, and has extensive experience in the social housing sector. The firm also acts for institutional investors on the sale and acquisition of property assets, and for developers, particularly on residential developments. Stewart Nash leads the team; Pierre Boitel-Gill acts for a number of major retailers; and Leo Brown has expertise in handling distressed property transactions.
‘Pierre Boitel-Gill has excellent attention to detail and knowledge of the Northern Irish commercial property market.‘
‘Elliott Duffy Garrett has a combination of knowledgeable property lawyers who work well together but who also have strong individual traits. They show an understanding of the sensitivities and sub-regional characteristics within Northern Ireland.‘
‘Leo Brown shows all-round competence mixed with common sense and an understanding of client needs.‘
‘Pierre Boitel-Gill demonstrates a mastery of lease details; like his colleagues, he is quick to respond to client needs.‘
‘Stewart Nash and Leo Brown efficiently and proactively progress difficult property sales.’
Redevco (formerly C&A)
John H Lunn Limited
- Acting for Redevco in the sale of a retail investment property in central Belfast to Corum Asset Management.
- Acting for John H Lunn on ongoing lease matters concerning the Queen’s Arcade in Belfast city centre.
Eversheds Sutherland counts a number of global companies with large Northern Irish property portfolios among its clients. The team also specialises in acting for landlords and tenants, advising on commercial, industrial, retail and office leases. Other areas of strength include advising on acquisitions and disposals of property and property development and financing, particularly in the renewable energy, logistics and retail sectors. Gareth Planck leads the team.
‘Eversheds Sutherland has efficient service, a mix of specialisms, and a local and national presence.‘
‘The team understands the clients’ requirements quickly and highlights the relevant points, taking the time to walk through them.‘
Perwyn Private Equity
Allied Irish Bank plc
Bestseller – Vila and SOFORA
Smiths Metals UK
- Advised Perwyn on the real estate aspects of its £60m investment into Lowe Refrigeration.
- Advising AIB on the property elements pertaining to a multimillion-pound term loan agreement with Antrim Wind Energy to fund Brookfield’s acquisition of ten newly constructed wind turbines in County Antrim.
- Advising DFS on the acquisition and development of a new distribution and logistics centre in Mallusk, County Antrim.
- Advising McDonald’s on the acquisition of new leasehold premises in Foyleside Shopping Centre, Londonderry.
- Advising the major US corporation on the acquisition by way of lease of a new logistics centre in Kilkeel, County Down.
Mills Selig has been highly active advising on sales, acquisitions and leasing, particularly in the retail and hotel sectors. The team also advises local developers, housing associations and government bodies on major residential and hotel developments and regeneration schemes. The 'excellent' Anne Skeggs leads the team, which also includes energy specialist Anna-Marie McAlinden.
Other key lawyers:
Herbert Group/Kirk Bryson Limited
Murdock Property Group/Lotus Group
Galliard Homes Limited
Marcol Group Limited
IMC Cinema Group
ITV Group plc
Clanmil Housing Association
Total Produce Limited
Quinn Industrial Holdings
A P Wireless Ireland Investments Limited
Quicklet Properties Limited
- Acted for First Derivatives on the development agreement and lease for premises at a new development located in Belfast city centre.
- Represented ITV on the sale of the iconic Havelock House studios on Ormeau Road.
- Acted for TST Logistics on the development agreement and lease for an industrial development on the former Michelin site.
- Acted for Jain (Europe) Limited on the property aspects of its acquisition of the entire share capital of NI Plastics Limited.
- Acting for SM Devine Homes Limited on all site acquisitions throughout Northern Ireland.
TLT stands out for its 'attention to detail and personal touch' and 'partner involvement'. The team acts for major local developers on site acquisitions for commercial and particularly residential developments; other areas of expertise include the retail, clean energy and public sectors. Practice head Judith Allen is noted for her expertise in property finance, while Kevin Murphy specialises in energy sector transactions.
Other key lawyers:
Kevin Murphy; Patrick O’Hanlon
‘The team combines attention to detail with the personal touch.’
‘Partner-level staff deal with our transactions, which gives comfort when dealing with complex issues.’
Andras House Group
Moorefield Hospitality Limited
Brookfield Renewable Ireland Limited
Deramore Developments Limited
- Advised Eastonville Traders on the disposal of three commercial development sites situated throughout Northern Ireland.
- Acted for Deramore (Belfast) on the acquisition of two residential development sites in Belfast.
- Advised Moorefield Hospitality Limited on the sale of its development at Belfast International Airport for the development of a Premier Inn to Turkington Holdings Limited.
- Advised Andras House Group on the acquisition and subsequent letting of commercial premises in Belfast city centre.
- Advised Braidwater on the acquisition of a mixed-used development site in West Belfast and the simultaneous sub-sale of two large portions to separate purchasers.
Worthingtons' 'extremely client-focused' team is known for its landlord and tenant specialism; the firm has particular strength in acting for retail tenants, with major local and national names among its clients. The team is also increasingly active advising on investment acquisitions, and advising clients in the telecoms and charity sectors in particular on the management of their property portfolios. Graham Pierce leads the team following the departure of David Wilson for Johnsons Solicitors.
‘Solicitor Michael Duffy is superbly professional, thorough and very approachable and generous with his time.‘
‘The team is focused on the client and getting the best job done.‘
‘The team is committed to sorting issues out in a timely manner and take it as personally as if they were working for the client in house. Graham Pierce leads his team in this manner by example.‘
‘Worthingtons acts swiftly, professionally and completely to the clients’ satisfaction.‘
‘Graham Pierce goes above and beyond to ensure every angle is covered in a detailed and professional way. He acts with speed and corresponds with clarity on all matters so that clients are fully informed throughout the process on progress and tight timescales are achieved.‘
Golf Holdings Group
Dixons Carphone plc (including Currys PC World)
The Works Stores
Premiere People (part of Cordant Group plc)
Boux Avenue (Ryman Group)
- Acting for Dixons Carphone plc in relation to the management of its Northern Ireland estate, consisting of shops and retail warehouses.
- Acting for Golf Holdings group of companies across all its Northern Ireland portfolio of off-licences, convenience stores, pubs and clubs.
- Representing Extra Care in its £2.34m acquisition of an investment property.
- Acting for Quiz plc in relation to its Northern Ireland retail estate portfolio.
- Acting for Extern Ireland in the purchase and funding of a portfolio of properties for conversion to secure accommodation.
John McKee Solicitors specialises in acting for local authorities, and is active in the public, transport, retail and energy sectors, advising on property acquisition and development and commercial leasing. Gerard Small and Donald Thompson jointly lead the practice; Small, who stands out for his 'personable approach', advises a range of local developers and financial institutions, while the 'first-class' Thompson, who joined from DWF in January 2019, has extensive experience in the care home and retail sectors.
Gerard Small; Donald Thompson
‘The team provides excellent service delivery and commercial, pragmatic advice.‘
‘The team provides an excellent client-focused service, whilst getting the job done in an efficient and knowledgeable manner.‘
‘Donald Thompson provides simplified analysis of complex issues. He is the person you want on your side in a commercial negotiation.‘
‘Donald Thompson and managing partner Chris Ross are well known throughout the commercial property industry and provide good, well-reasoned, no-nonsense advice.‘
‘The team at John McKee Solicitors has an extremely professional approach to all matters conveyancing, offering a fantastic advice and support service. They have a good team of professionals that offer a reliable and accurate service.‘
‘The team balances commercial interests, pragmatism and attention to detail to give a very balanced and excellent service.‘
‘Gerard Small always makes himself available and proves committed and highly effective.‘
Nationwide Building Society
Arris Global Ltd
UK Mail Limited
Nicholls’ (Fuel Oils) Limited
Disability Sport NI Ltd
Moore Construction (NI) Limited
Restrana (Belfast) Limited (Five Guys’ Franchisee)
Ulster Garden Villages Limited
- Advising Northern Ireland Transport Holding Company (Translink) on the acquisition of a site for new offices and engineering facilities in connection with the Belfast Rapid Transit project and the related disposal of three existing sites.
- Advising Translink on the acquisition of a former Victorian railway station, vesting of lands and other voluntary land acquisitions to assemble the site for the proposed new North-West Multimodal Transport Hub.
- Acting for UK Mail on the acquisition of a warehouse as its new Northern Ireland parcel-handling facility.
- Advising Parr Group on the pre-let of a proposed retail development in Ballymoney to Home Bargains, the sale of the landlord company after the completion of construction, and the grant of new lease.
The 'very capable' team at Keystone Law is noted for its advice to developers on major local leisure, residential and student accommodation projects. The office sector is also an area of strength, with the team regularly acting for landlords and tenants on leasing arrangements. The 'excellent' Danny McKay leads the team. Jim Houston, whose areas of expertise include advising national and international funds on the acquisition of Northern Irish property portfolios, is also a key contact.
Other key lawyers:
‘Danny McKay and solicitor Jonny Mullan always seem to be ahead of the curve, flagging well in advance what the issues are and possible solutions. They always seem to have matters in hand with their commercial and pragmatic approach.‘
‘Keystone Law is excellent, head and shoulders above competitors.‘
Hatch Brothers Limited
Giant’s Park Belfast Limited
Causeway Asset Management
Allen & Overy LLP
Johncorp (No3) Limited
- Advised Hatch Brothers on the property aspects of its acquisition of the business and assets of Genesis Crafty Bakery.
- Acted for Giants Park Belfast Limited on its successful bid to develop the new £93m visitor and leisure attraction at Giants Park Belfast.
- Acted for Causeway Asset Management on the lease of office space at Nine Lanyon Place, Belfast, in one of the region’s largest ever office lease transactions.
- Acted for Allen & Overy in the re-gear of the leases under which it occupies the landmark Obel Building at Donegall Quay in the centre of Belfast.
- Advised on the completion of the full letting of Westwood Retail Park in Belfast.