Sale time at Debenhams Cork store

WITH plans afoot for the €70m-plus investment property sale of the ‘old’ Roches Stores/Debenhams Cork’s store by the publicity-shy Roche family, the arrival of a neighbouring niche investment with a more modest €1.5m price tag has impeccable timing, and opportunity.

Listed this week is 38, 39 & 40 Maylor Street, bookended by Debenhams on the western side, and by Smyths Toys on the eastern flank. It’s guided at €1.5 million by Cohalan Downing, and has an income of €126,000 pa.

It comes publicly, as under-the-radar marketing has been continuing to international funds and Irish REIT investors on the iconic 12-17 St Patrick Street, a retail department store, still owned by Roche family members and being sold on their behalf.

Dominated by an enormous green copper dome, the broad building has 45 metres frontage onto St Patrick Street, and a whopping 120 metres down along Maylor Street facing Brown Thomas.

Agents Colliers says “12-17 St Patrick’s Street is a world class department store with large floor plates, providing the perfect mix of modern retail space and character in an iconic landmark building.”

It was developed almost a century ago, in 1922, by the Roche family whose business was founded in 1901 by William Roche.

The St Patrick Street store was significantly upgraded in the 1990s by Roches Stores, with the addition of a large central glazed atrium and new elevators.

Following the sale of Roches Stores’ nine outlets to Debenhams in 2006, it has been occupied by Debenhams on a 25 year lease from 2006 and on a recently renegotiated rent of €3.25 million, and is now on offer via investment advisor Declan Stone of Colliers in Dublin.

The building has a gross internal area of almost four acres, or 152,000 sq ft on a ground floor 1.32 acre footprint in the very retail heart of Cork city centre, and has “long term redevelopment potential beyond its current use as a single department store.”

Colliers’ sales prospectus, dubbed Projectgrouse, outlines scope for three large new ‘MSU’ retail units plus a 220-bed aparthotel in the airspace to the rear of the existing building.

The anticipated sale (Colliers did not return calls for details and confirmation of the current status of their sales process), is broadly tipped to be in the €70-75 million price bracket.

Importantly, it does not include the former Roches Stores supermarket section, now occupied by SuperValu, or the multi-storey car-park with over 700 spaces, serving Debenhams and the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre.

Sources say a separate investment deal may already have been agreed on those supermarket/carpark elements of the former Roche family’s historic Cork city base, and if so could push the total sale outcome of the family’s Cork property at up to or over €100 million.

Projectgrouse only covers the Cork property for the Roche family, and not the far more valuable Henry Street store, and the utterly low-key and publicity averse Roches have very extensive international property and business investments (including some in the UK in the 2000s with Michael O’Flynn’s Tiger Developments.)

Nor does the sale of 12-17 St Patrick’s Street include portions of the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre which transacted earlier this year. Savills secured €13.4 million for 29 mall retail units in the high-profile development, initially done in 1989 by O’Callaghan Properties and anchored by Dunnes.

The Merchants Quay section offered for an investment fund in the past year was earning €1.47 million in rent. It was bought by Clarendon Properties’ Tony Leonard and Paddy McKilleen who control Cork’s Queens Old Castle, and Savoy centres, as well as the Wilton Shopping Centre and who have been active in key Cork site assemblies. Might Clarendon have a rattle off the Debenhams offer?

The sale comes after new rent levels were agreed at 12-17 Patrick Street by landlord representative of the 60-year old and Wicklow-based Richard Roche, with Debenhams last year after the latter emerged from a period of examinership.

The restructuring deal and rent reviews secured over 1,300 Debenhams jobs, plus hundreds of concession jobs, and Debenhams has traded in 11 Irish outlets, including four in Dublin.

At the time of the 2006 deal with Roches Stores, the Roche family maintained landlord ownership of both Henry Street in Dublin and St Patrick Street stores in their native Cork city.

At the time of that deal, it was reported that Debenhams were acquiring the business and leaseholds of nine Roches stores outlets for just €29m, with further multi-million euro payments for stock etc.

Debenhams currently trades out of over 240 stores across 27 countries, and its 2016 sales turnover was £2.35 billion.

The original Roches Stores building was developed in 1922, after the December 1920 fateful ‘Burning of Cork’ by British auxiliary forces during the War of Independence, which destroyed over 40 retail businesses and 300 houses.

Reconstruction of St Patrick’s Street delivered impressive retail buildings which give this section of the second city’s main retail thoroughfare such heft and appeal: among the best were Roches Stores (now Debenhams) Cashs (now Brown Thomas) and the Munster Arcade, now Penneys.

Meanwhile, Penneys long-awaited major redevelopment of their Patrick Street store, after a considerable site assembly at a cost of tens of millions of euros, is expected to finally go forward for planning permission by the end of this year.

Sources say it will be project managed by personnel within O’Flynn Construction for Primark/Penneys.

Details: Colliers 01-6333700

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