Cork city's Good Shepherd Convent back up for sale with planning for 202 units

A controversial Cork city convent site, which has had five owners since 1996 and which was twice ravaged by fire, in 2003 and again 2012, is back for sale.

The Good Shepherd Convent in Sundays Well carries a guide price of €6.75 million, having secured new planning permission for 202 residential units: it last sold only three years ago, for just over €1.5 million.

Heading to the peak of the Celtic Tiger era, the former convent and Magdalene laundry site on 7.8 acres had sold for as much as €20m, with buyers at the time, Frinailla, getting planning on appeal back in 2006 for 260 apartments.

Nothing has yet been developed there, and the historic red-brick convent building high above the city and prominent on the landscape of the northside was gutted in a fire seven years ago – one of a number of exceptional Cork buildings to suffer this fate while derelict, since followed by the likes of St Kevin’s Shanakiel (now in the control of the Land Development Agency,) and Vernon Mount House amongst others.

After the 2012 fire, the Good Shepherd Convent property transferred via an Ulster Bank loan sale to Cairn Homes, who resold via Savills to its current owners, Monreda Development for a reported €1.5m three years ago.

Now, it has a 2018 planing grant for 182 apartments, and 20 townhouses, secured in the face of Bord Pleanála appeals from Sunday’s Well and Blarney Street residents, achieved by its owners Monreda Development, based in Drogheda and linked to Northern Ireland investors and developers.

The convent left religious order hands as far back as 1995, and was bought at the time by UCC, who ultimately decided not to proceed with development there. It has also been subsequently owned by developer Pat Hegarty, by developers Frinailla, Cairn and now Monreda.

And, it’s back for sale, seeking new developer or investor buyers, with its planning for 202 units secured in the face of objections, public meetings, campaigns and talk of judicial reviews. The mix includes one, two and three-bed units, 20 four-bed townhouses and a creche.

It was previously mooted as most suitable for purpose-built student accommodation, as this is about the only apartment development sector where the financial figures stack up and that’s where Cork’s only construction of apartment and multi-unit builds is currently active.

However, it’s pitched now at the build- to-rent residential market, and the guide of €6.75m represents a per-unit site cost of €33,000 with agent Peter O’Meara of Savills Cork noting “there is a real shortage of good quality development land, with the benefit of full planning permission, in good saleable areas and this property comes to the market at a point where there is a crucial need for residential accommodation in Cork city.”

He notes the investment of €160m in the private rental sector (PRS) in Cork in the past 12 to 18 months, with sales such as the Elysian and City Square.

However, while development sites have been acquired for the PRS market in Cork city over the past 18 months by the likes of Glenveagh (Centre Park Road) and Clarendon/BAM (Horgan’s Quay, planning in place) no-one has yet started construction of build-to-rents on a scale. And, the most recent sale of residential development last pitched at the high-density PRS sector, on Cork’s South Douglas Road, has been bought by Centurion Homes, who appear to favour a lower density development similar to their Aylesbury scheme in Ballintemple.

Savills’ James O’Donovan predicts “a good level of interest in the property from both developers and investors locally and nationally, particularly given the location as well as the fact the site can be considered a ‘ready-to-go site,’ with the benefit of full planning permission. There has also been strong interest in this area of the market (build to rent) for the last 18 months and this opportunity fits that mould.”

According to Savills’ Mr O’Meara “rarely does an unencumbered site with the benefit of full planning permission come to the open market, and with the well documented shortage of residential units in Cork city developers and investors alike will welcome an opportunity such as this.”

The site, with tight access from Convent Avenue and the steep and narrow Buxton Hill, is near the Old City Gaol, now a major tourist attraction, above Sundays Well and accessible to UCC’s 19,000 students, via the Shakey Bridge, and is also just 1.5kms from Apple’s European HQ at Hollyhill, where 6,000 are employed, as well as being proximate to Fitzgerald Park, the Mardyke sports arena and the Lee Fields.

Details: Savills 021-4271371

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