Sale of Douglas Village Shopping Centre almost wrapped

Tom Coughlan-led Urban Green Private are believed to be on the verge of a deal to buy the complex for c€23m.
Sale of Douglas Village Shopping Centre almost wrapped

The Douglas Village Shoping Centre, Douglas, Cork. Property investment firm, Tom Coughlan-led Urban Green Private, is believed to be on the verge of a deal to buy it for c€23m. Picture: Dan Linehan

THE sale of Douglas Village Shopping Centre for c€23m is expected to close in the New Year as the Tom Coughlan-led property investment firm Urban Green Private edges closer to a deal.

Picture: Dan Linehan
Picture: Dan Linehan

Once the sale goes through, the company will own four shopping centres, including Castletroy Shopping Centre in Limerick which it bought for €3.425 in a Nama sale in 2016; Shannon Town Shopping Centre which it bought last year for €6m and Bridgewater Shopping Centre in Arklow, Co Wicklow, which it also bought last year for a reported €18m. Just last month Urban Green secured planning permission for a major logistics hub on a 27-acre Dundalk site it acquired from the McWilliams Group for €8.9m.

The Irish Examiner understands the Douglas deal is all but done and that it would take something major to de-rail it.

Who is funding the purchase is unclear but Finance Ireland, one of the country’s largest non-bank lenders, has been involved with Urban Green in the past. Urban Green’s own website says it has “properties across Ireland, with more than €150m of assets under management”. The most recent accounts filed at the Companies Registration Office for 2019 show a profit of €346,391 for Urban Green.

The company was founded in 2013 by Mr Coughlan, former owner of Cork City Football Club and one-time unsuccessful local election candidate for the now defunct Progressive Democrats. Mr Coughlan’s ownership of the football club was shortlived and he was banned by the FAI from all football-related activities for a year. A move by a group of solicitors to have Urban Green wound up was struck out earlier this year.

Businessman Tom Coughlan
Businessman Tom Coughlan

Mr Coughlan is also behind the highly successful Marina Market on Cork City’s Monahan Road, whose future is under threat after planners turned down a request for its retention and expansion. It opened without planning during the pandemic. A petition to keep the venue open has more than 31,000 signatures.

Marina Market Pic: Dan Linehan
Marina Market Pic: Dan Linehan

The move by Urban Green to acquire Douglas Village Shopping Centre, on a prime six acres at the heart of the affluent southside suburb, will add a choice piece of retail property to the company’s portfolio. The 230,000 sq ft centre, of which 80,000 sq ft is owned by anchor tenant Tesco, has a 1,000-space multi-level carpark and generates an annual rent of more than €2.4m, with scope to increase that figure once a number of vacant units are filled. 

August 2019 fire
August 2019 fire

There are more than 40 units in the centre, some of which have remained empty since a major fire caused extensive damage in August 2019.

The complex, the country’s second oldest shopping centre, (it opened in 1971) was developed by Canmount Ltd, a company controlled by local developers the Love family. It was transformed into a modern shopping centre in 2007 and underwent extensive refurbishment over the last two years on foot of major reconstruction work in the wake of the fire.

The move by Urban Green to acquire the Douglas complex comes as the process continues to sell another prime piece of commercial real estate, the former Debenhams’ store on St Patrick’s Street in Cork City, which is on the market for €20m. While Ballybunion Capital, founded by Cahir entrepreneur/asset manager/solicitor, Patrick O’Sullivan, had been the front runner, it’s understood there has been a change of preferred bidder and Ballybunion Capital is no longer in the race. It’s thought the O’Flynn Group, who did take a look at the 151,000 sq ft flagship premises, are no longer in the mix.

Debenhams, St Patrick's St
Debenhams, St Patrick's St

Sources told the Irish Examiner there were five-plus bidders at one stage for the St Patrick’s Street property, once home to Roches Stores, but that just three remain. Local developer, John Cleary, whose company JCD is behind the €50m redevelopment of the former Capitol Cinema into a mixed-use premises on Grand Parade, is thought to be still involved. Clarendon Properties, who own Merchants Quay shopping mall, which adjoins Debenhams, have said they are not involved. It’s understood O’Callaghan Properties is not involved either.

The UK-based Fraser Group, who have bought the former Eason premises on St Patrick’s Street opposite Debenhams, with a plan to open an upmarket fashion store by next Easter, are moving ahead with plans to purchase another former Debenhams store on Dublin’s Henry Street, on the market for €55m. Cushman & Wakefield, who are handling the sale of both properties on behalf of receiver Grant Thornton, are understood to be prioritising getting the Dublin deal over the line, possibly before year end.

The sale of the Debenhams’ premises in Cork is seen as integral to the future of the city’s main shopping thoroughfare, which suffered badly during successive Covid lockdowns. Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, Aoife Brennan, Lisney Research Director, says while approximately one in five units are empty on St Patrick Street “property deals have and are occurring”.

Christmas scene on St Patrick's St Pic:Larry Cummins
Christmas scene on St Patrick's St Pic:Larry Cummins

Ms Brennan writes that “opportunities are on offer to those retailers who are in a position to capitalise on them” with recent deals “on adjusted terms to those sought in 2019”.

Among the suggestions put forward for the future use of Debenhams, on a 1.32 acre site, are retaining retail at the front section of the building, entertainment and food & beverage area upstairs, while using the rear for accommodation.

A concept proposal drawn up by an architect for a mixed-use scheme includes a proposal for a 220-room hotel and 47 residential units along Maylor Street.

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