This part of Belfast is historically known for its connection to the city’s proud ship-building history. Sadly, pride often comes before a fall, and the decline of the industry correlated directly with deprivation and a steep decline in quality of life and opportunity in this area.
But it’s a story that hopefully has a happy ending. Although the far end approaching Short Strand direction still bears some scars of its tough journey (namely boarded up shops and houses and paramilitary murals), there are green shoots appearing.
The Skainos Centre, CS Lewis Square and the Connswater Community Greenway form something of a triumvirate of urban regeneration. The Templemore Avenue development we covered in a 2016 Investment Focus is now well underway, and it’s my understanding that planning permission has been granted for another two units.
The behemoth that is the Connswater shopping centre continues to develop and expand. While this is good news for those living nearby in terms of convenience and job opportunities, it is only going to lead to more dummy shopfronts.
The days of the little ‘Ma and Pa’ shop or newsagent doing a roaring trade in this part of town are over. They just can’t compete with an expanding city centre and Connswater’s economies of scale.
This is why I believe smart investors should be snapping up those empty shop units and converting them into residential accommodation.
In particular, I would be keeping an eye on large buildings that could be converted into apartments and blocks of flats. Many of them are currently available to let as commercial and warehousing units, but if they linger un-rented for too long, you could see them up for sale.
Urban regeneration, retail expansion and the natural spillover from nearly-neighbours the Titanic Quarter means this is likely to be an area where more and more people are going to want to live.
The main road itself is where many of those large buildings, faux-fronted shops and boarded-up commercial units I mentioned are to be found. Apply for a change of use from commercial to residential and convert these into nice little economical flats. There are already very early signs of gentrification in the area – Jack’s coffee bar and The Bank artists’ studio collective, to name two. Time it right and you could have a nice little portfolio of flats and apartments ready and waiting for an influx of new renters seeking their fortunes in a newly-cool and still-affordable part of town.
Keep an eye out for ex-Housing Executive or social housing stock to come on to the market around here. I bang on about it but these are well-made, thoughtfully designed properties and can be brilliant investments. Some original cobbled streets in this part of the city too which really add a touch of character.
This to me is a street with the best of both worlds – affordable property without the ‘hard architecture’ commonly seen in this part of the city. Hard architecture is where you have no outdoor space between your front door and the street. You’d be surprised as to the subtle psychological feeling of security you get by having that little bit of a buffer between your home – your little sanctuary – and the big bad world outside. Packing people in like sardines can raise tensions – giving them space, even just a little, has the opposite effect, so the little front-garden spaces these houses enjoy are a draw for me.
£70,000 asking price
Two 2 ½ storey mid-terrace properties, currently vacant, in need of extensive development and, in my opinion, crying out for a change of use to flats.
£75,000 asking price
A three-storey, 4-bed end terrace in need of a bit of modernisation – on the market for £75,000. Need I say more?!
£72,000 asking price
This is an example of that hard architecture I mentioned, however it is also seemingly an immaculate and well-built little house which – judging from the photos alone, admittedly - you could probably move a tenant into without needing to pick up a paintbrush.