Penneys are on a roll

TOMORROW is the tender date for the sale of Cork City’s Victoria Hotel on St Patrick’s Street and Cook Street, with well over a half dozen parties expected to make offers on the historic 33-bed city hotel.

Penneys are on a roll

The Victoria, guided at around €1m, comes as international retailer Primark/Penneys continues its multi-million euro stealth site-acquisition spree on Cook Street/St Patrick’s Street, to enable it to double its city presence from 35,000 to 80,000 sq ft.

It is continuing to pick up a number of buildings here in off-market deals: likely to be among the latest is the Ambassador Restaurant at No 3 Cook Street, which has confirmed it is to close by May 10, transferring its Chinese restaurant business to Carrigaline. The Ambassador has been family owned, run by the Wong family, since 1987, and they opened their Carrigaline restaurant in the Owenbue Mall in 2004. The extended family has also been associated with the Yangtze River since the early 1970s.

No comment has been made on the closure, with market sources suggesting a €2m-plus sale may have been on the cards.

It’s likely that Penneys is spending €10-15m on overall site acquisition, and may have as much as 85% of the block now in its control. Last year it bought the former Irish Nationwide corner building on Cook Street/St Patrick’s Street via DTZ and Savills for c €1.5m, now leased by Scandinavian ‘cheerful, and cheap’ discount retail chain Tiger. Also recently leased on Cook Street is the former Tubes (ex-Bewleys) surf shop, now occupied by the Moderne who sold up on Patrick Street to Davy Private several months ago for over €4.5m for a client buyer, reported to be a Dublin investor/builder. The front section of the Moderne is likely to go to a High Street retail/fashion, with restaurant use on the back French Church Street section, aimed at the likes of Nandos or other large food operators.

The leases Penneys/Primark are agreeing on its myriad acquired properties in the block from Robert Street to Cook Street (including Elbow Lane), and fronting St Patrick’s Street and St Oliver Plunkett Street, range from a year to three years. Sources say Penneys aim to expand into the back of a number of its new acquisitions at ground level with some extra street presence and access points, and will take control of all the upper levels, to create a prime and very sizeable city central store — a new anchor for St Patrick’s Street. One of Europe’s most successful retailers, Primark/Penneys also has 50,000 sq ft at the Wilton ShoppingCente in suburban Cork.

Between the sale of the former Art Deco Moderne building, the Victoria Hotel dating to 1810, and Penneys behind-the-scenes moves, there’s significant confidence returning to St Patrick Street’s centre, led by the completed Opera Lane development.

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