Doubt cast over developer's ability to fund Waterford Quays regeneration

Falcon Real Estate has until Saturday to provide evidence of €400m funding
Doubt cast over developer's ability to fund Waterford Quays regeneration

Artist's impression of the proposed redevelopment of Waterford's North Quays.

It is "unlikely" the developer behind Waterford's long-awaited North Quays regeneration will be able to meet the project's funding requirements, according to the chief executive of Waterford City and County Council.

It comes following intense speculation around Falcon Real Estate's stated €400m commitment to the project, which was hailed as "the largest urban regeneration project" in the country last year.

The council chief, Michael Walsh, said the developer has until this Saturday to meet pre-conditions for the contract, including evidence of funding for the development of the eight-hectare site across the River Suir from the city centre. The developer had also been requested to lodge money for the project but has yet to do so.

"We believe it's unlikely that Falcon, at this stage, will meet those conditions," Mr Walsh told Thursday's monthly council meeting. "But it still remains the position that they have until Saturday evening to do so."

Artist's impression of the mall interior at Waterford North Quays.
Artist's impression of the mall interior at Waterford North Quays.

The Government announced €110m for the regeneration last November, with €80.6m assigned from the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) while €30m has been committed by the Department of Transport for major infrastructure works, including the relocation of Plunkett train station and the construction of a new bridge linking the north and south quays.

The developer, Rob Cass, said he received approval from the company's board to present the council with evidence of funding worth €355m which had been a previously sought precondition of the contract.

Mr Walsh said the evidence of funding will be the "first we will have seen it" and while it "would satisfy a particular precondition in terms of funding confirmation, we'll wait and see that". He added: "Obviously we'll be quite happy if that's a very positive development."

Mr Walsh said he would make no further public commentary until after Saturday's deadline and will brief politicians on the council's decision on Monday morning: "As of now, until Saturday evening we're in contract with the company and need to respect that."

However, he added: "People reading the tea leaves could recognise that we have concern and there's uncertainty, is the way I'd put it. 

On the balance of probability I think it's unlikely that [Falcon] will satisfy the contract's preconditions. 

"As a consequence, we have to move on and we've been doing an awful lot of work so that we can move on but I'd prefer to leave it at that."

Rob Cass, director of Falcon, said it had taken three years to gather the funding for the project, and the efforts were massively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added the development is being changed as a result, with retail space being reduced from the original plan. 

There has been a lot of speculation but we are committed to this, we want to do this and get this project done for Waterford."

If the council's contract with the developer is terminated, the project will be re-advertised to the private sector. It may proceed but with much less focus on retail as a result and it is expected that more than one developer will come on board. 

On this, Mr Cass said the council was entitled to speak to other developers in place of Falcon but believes it will take some time for the level of funding required to be secured.

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