Frinailla latest casualty after Ulster Bank’s €100m asset seizure

ULSTER Bank’s move on €100 million worth of Cork city property assets belonging to the Frinailla Group is the largest market casualty to date yet in the southern city.

The move followed last March’s swoop by Bank of Ireland on Frinailla’s completed €50m City Square development on Watercourse Road, Blackpool.

Questions remain over the viability of other key sites – such as a Grand Parade development site – controlled by the family-owned group.

Frinailla is headed by Michael Conway snr, Michael Conway jnr, Kieran Conway, and a fourth director, Paudie Dennehy.

Mr Dennehy is a former head of commercial lending for Ulster Bank in Munster.

He left to join Frinailla around 2005, and is likely to be a key reference point for receivers KPMG, acting for his former bank employers.

As yet unaffected is the 1.3 acre Grand Parade site earmarked for a €300m scheme of new city library, shops, offices and 24 luxury apartments, in train variously since 2002, but now a largely derelict assembled centre city site funded by a consortium of banks.

Among Frinailla’s other undeveloped sites is one at Tramore Road, a former Keating’s bakery site with asbestos contamination issues, where around 100 apartments were proposed.

Receiver Kieran Wallace of KPMG yesterday said he could not comment until later this week on his likely strategy for the three Frinailla sites taken into his control. He was appointed last week as receiver of two Frinailla companies, Oakdon and Castle Treasure Homes.

The main assets are the untouched development site at Good Shepherd Convent in Sunday’s Well, the largely completed Dennehy’s Cross mixed apartment and retail site with 147 apartments and a Tesco Express supermarket, and a Douglas, Carr’s Hill housing scheme, called Temple Grove. Many houses in The Vicarage section there have been sold, and Frinailla said they had acquired 70 acres in Douglas for development.

The Conways had recently been in discussion on a land swap in Douglas for its GAA pitch on five acres in the suburban village.

The move by Ulster Bank is the latest unravelling of the Frinailla empire, which soared during the boom period. Family members had given personal guarantees across a lot of their debts.

They follow other local high-profile development firms and individuals into receivership, like Rick Fitzgerald and Coolfadda, as well as the Fleming Group with its €2 billion in debts.

Frinailla had the largest local concentration of Cork city developments.

Property sources say the Dennehy’s Cross former garage site will be the most easily worked asset, with a number of finished apartments currently let to UCC. Work continued on weatherproofing the second block up until recent weeks.

The largest question mark will be over the Good Shepherd Convent building and eight-acre site, where 200 flats were planned. The historic building, previously owned by Pat Hegarty and before that briefly by UCC, is in an abandoned state.

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