Investment funds are becoming major players in land development market

Roll away the stones? Blarney's long-stalled Stoneview site taken on from Nama for €7m,  by fund called Elkstone Partners
Investment funds are becoming major players in land development market

Snapped up for c 7 million by a fund, Elkstone Partners, is this 105-acre holding at Stoneview, Blarney. It made 50% over the launch €4.6m guide, sold  for Nama and receivers Crowe, via agents Coldwell Banker

MAJOR investment funds sitting on huge cash piles are emerging as a force in the Irish land development market, combining site acquisition and speculation, as low-key and off-market multi-million euro deals transact during these pandemic months.

A number of key Cork sites are currently transacting to a cross-section of buyer profiles  in locations like Blackrock Road, Ballyvolane and outer Douglas.

More and even larger and more valuable  ones due to come to the open market in coming weeks, including  in the heart of Wilton, at Bishopstown and at Ballincollig.

Against this backdrop of coming land supply and competing interests, the most recent Munster example of funds’ activity in amassing land holdings is at Stoneview, near Blarney.

Here, a company called Elkstone Partners has emerged as the successful buyer of 105 acres of Nama-controlled land, paying 50% over the initial €4.6m price guide to sew it up.

Elkstone Partners, with Irish offices in Dublin and Galway and active across a broad financial and wealth management spectrum, is understood to have seen off developer interest to secure the Stoneview land by Blarney Business Park and its long-proposed commuter rail station on the Mallow/Dublin line.

It acquired the 105 acres  at a cost of c €7 million,  well above the €4.6m which  it had floated at in October when launched by agent Pat Falvey of Coldwell Banker, acting for Nama and receivers Crowe.

The edge-of-Blarney land had formed part of an even larger 250 acre holding assembled in the mid-2000s by a number of strong developers including Michael O’Regan John Fleming, John Coleman and John Bowen.

Involved too in this completed c €7m Stoneview purchase by Elkstone was low-key operator and former lawyer Finbarr O’Leary. Mr O'Leary  has been working with this group and other funds typically using venture capital monies, with a further 150 acre Blarney holding even closer to the world-famous tourist village just south of Stoneview also in their sights.

It’s understood that funds’ strategy will be to partner with local builder/developer entities, as many Irish developers relying on bank financing or other even dearer sources cannot compete with funds who’ve access to unlimited funds at near-zero interest rates, for medium to long-term development plays.

With Blarney now under Cork City Council control and funds available for infrastructure to open up new development hubs, a new impetus is expected for a commuter rail line along by the N20 and Stoneview, as well as services’ delivery to nearby Monard, with Irish Water seen as pivotal to opening up these large residential swathes.

So it is too at Ballincollig where a well-known local business family, the O Crualaoi’s, farm of more than 100 acres may be expected to come for sale later in 2021, at values put by some at well in excess of €20 million.

It’s close to 69 acres at Maglin, already acquired for c €20m by O’Flynn Construction 18 months ago, with other home builders Murnane & O’Shea and O’Callaghan Properties also active in this particular growth area.

Back even closer to suburban Cork, about 20 acres at Garrandarra (or Garrandarragh) by Eagle Valley and Dunnes in Bishopstown is expected to come to the open market very shortly.

It’s likely to be guided at about €5 million, and again, like Blarney, had formed part of a larger assembled landbank and Celtic Tiger times legacy holding, being sold for Nama.

It was previously valued at €30 million and was part of a bigger €90m land assembly aimed at a mixed uses to include residential, park and ride and a medical campus to include a private hospital.

Since then, previously targeted users like Marymount and Enable Ireland have developed their own new facilities just west of Bishopstown.

Close-by, meanwhile, a new, revised planning permission is being sought at Ardarostig by Ardstone Homes who had a 250-units SHD refused recently by Bord Pleanana. 

Market sources also report buyer interest in a similar-sized SHD site on the fringes of Douglas, one  with full planning granted for c 250 homes.

Closest of all to Cork city centre, a 1.65 acre site on the city end of the Blackrock Road by Ashton is understood to have been bid to over €3m, but no deal there has yet closed and the buyer’s identity is undisclosed.

That truly prime small site, not publicly on the market, includes two large Victorian homes facing the Blackrock Road, reported on here some months ago when bidding on the prestige site was hurtling past €2m mark.

Finally, widely expected to come publicly for sale by mid-year is a pivotal plot of c six acres in Wilton, next to the shopping centre and SMA religious order’s grounds.

It’s going to be offered by the ESB as surplus to their requirements at their depot off Sarsfields Road. It's  likely to be valued at about €1 million an acre.

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