Real Capitol: Site bought in Cork for €60m to sell for €6m

The Capitol Cinema site and the Central Shoe Stores lie on a plot of more than half an acre on St Patrick's Street and Grand Parade that is up for sale.  Picture: Denis Minihane

Billed as Cork City’s "last great retail site of note", a plot of more than half an acre on St Patrick’s St and Grand Parade — including the Capitol Cinema site and Central Shoe Stores — goes for sale next week.

Nama has instructed the Cork office of international agents Savills to offer the 0.65-acre site for redevelopment, just as demand for new retail operators starts to pick up on recession- hit St Patrick’s Street.

The impressively-sized bloc had cost an estimated €60m to €70m to assemble over a number of years, in a spending splurge spearheaded by developer Joe O’Donovan’s company Padlake, but it has remained largely unoccupied and also part derelict over the past eight years.

Planning was sought back in 2008 for a €200m scheme to include 100,000sq ft of retail development.

Now, the whole site is likely to be pitched to developers at about the €6m mark, or less than 10% of the previous assembly site costs around 2005 and 2006 which saw one shop owner on St Patrick St net €11m, and bars such as Oyster Tavern and The Vineyard making a reported €5m to €6m each when acquired.

New uses for the large site stretching in a swathe from the western end of St Patrick’s St onto a high-profile section on Grand Parade are likely to include retail, and a significant food offer. There has already been political and municipal support via Simon Coveney, the agriculture minister, and City Hall for an extension of the city’s top tourist draw, the English Market, into a broader food-related offering, to further Cork’s pitch as the country’s food capital.

The mix (the site is not expected to be able to offer much parking) could include some offices and apartments overhead, which would meet strong rental demand for city centre living. Opera Lane, in the street’s mid-section, is seen as a good example of what could be delivered as a retail/ residential mix at the location.

It would have an appeal to seasoned urban developers such as Owen O’Callaghan, who did the Opera Lane and Half Moon St mix. However, whether or not he has the appetite for further development on this scale in the city is unclear.

“It’s the last city centre retail site of note in Cork,” said Savills’ director Peter O’Meara, noting they have just recently agreed new retail deals on St Patrick’s Street, and who predicts a market uplift in 2015.

Fashion retailer SuperDry is to move into the Moderne, as a new Cork retail brand, while existing retailers Jack and Jones are to move to the former Mothercare shop, as Penneys have bought Jack and Jones’ existing outlet to enable them to double the Penneys footprint on St Patrick’s Street and into Cook St.

Separately, Friends First, owners of Merchants Quay shopping centre, earlier this month sought planning for changes to its centre.

“This sale is going to be good news for Patrick St. We had multiple inquires on the Moderne and Mothercare properties from international and national retailers, showing confidence in the city centre,” said Mr O’Meara. “This site has potential for a few strong new retailers on Patrick St, and several more on Grand Parade.”

He said there should be interest from developers/occupants from around the country.


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