Re: Re: Developments in Cork

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Cathal Dunne

@kite wrote:

Today’s Irish Examiner
By Tommy Barker

CONTROVERSIAL property investor Joe O’Donovan is putting Cork’s Wilton Shopping Centre on the market for €285 million, less than two months after 172 people lost their jobs there.

The Wilton complex was bought just two years ago for €124m from Tesco, who paid €80m for it in 2002.

The Cork centre, which was at the centre of a rent row after anchor tenant Roches Stores closed and left 172 staff out of work, is being marketed with joint agents DTZ and CBRE.

The complex is being earmarked for major development. Subject to planning, CBRE says it could quadruple to become a new western suburban town centre with a shopping mall, apartments, offices, basement car parking for 1,480 cars and medical centre on up to four floors.

Mr O’Donovan had initially bought 60% of the shopping centre in partnership with Howard Holdings. Last month, he bought out Howard’s 40% share for an undisclosed sum.

The huge price differential being sought is justified by investment specialist Sean O’Brien of CB Richard Ellis, selling for Mr O’Donovan, claiming “it is the best development opportunity in Cork”. The site sits on 17 acres, with scope to develop a new town centre and to go from 150,000 sq ft of buildings to 750,000 sq ft.

However, Tesco has retained ownership of its new 55,000 sq ft store and controls a significant portion of the parking area.

Mr O’Donovan hit the headlines in October after he and Marks and Spencer failed to agree over the rental value of retail space.

Roches had agreed a deal with M&S for the British retailer to take over its lease on the 45,000 square foot anchor tenant’s plot for the same rental price. It also agreed to take on the former Roches staff.

However, Mr O’Donovan demanded that M&S pay an increased rent. When agreement could not be reached, the deal fell apart. &

Last night, Linda Tanham of the retail staff union Mandate said: “The debacle with Roches and M&S did seem to be all about money. We did always suspect that there had to be an ulterior motive. Any shopping centre would jump at the chance to have a retailer like M&S going into it.”

Wilton traders’ spokesman Jim Byrne said traders would have an open mind on any possible redevelopment, and said they’d be glad not to have to deal with Mr O’Donovan as landlord.

“People are entitled to a profit, but it shouldn’t be on the backs of traders. Our business is down 25% or 30% since Roches closed. We will make a sale difficult for him until our concerns are addressed. It is like a bad divorce and a messy divide.”

Mr O’Donovan could not be contacted for comment last night.

I saw an aerial view of the whole complex in the ‘Commercial property’ section into today’s Irish Independent and the whole site looked like it could do with a lot more than theusual paint-job and nice flowerboxes. The site looked hugely underused with vast expanses of car-park, very inefficient.

My idea for redeveloping the site is the increase of density on the site with the whole complex bult up several storeys in parts. The car-parks should be built on and replacemnt capacity created in multi-storey car-parking/underground car-parking. The site has plenty of access roads so a public transport could be routed into a new Wilton.

There’s a nice grouping of houses up arund an old church at the back of the site as well. That got me thinking, maybe they could have pedestrian access through a low-rise village-style area there. They could put loads of street cafés, open-fronted clothes and bazaar-like shops there in conjunction with things like street performers to really recreate the environment of old Town Centres.

There’s a black-box like building in the middle front of the site. That drew my attention as that building looks like its on a site where a central building could be put. I was thinking of a fifteen storey building there as a draw for the complex at a distance.

What do other Archiseekers think?

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