Cairn Homes’ Cork sell-off

The arrival for sale of three significant development sites in Cork, worth up to €30 million, sees a further scattering of the spread of sites and assets acquired by the firm Frinailla in the early 2000s, earmarked for developments of between €500m and €1bn.

Gone to market this week via Savills in what’s billed The Treasure Collection are a trio of former Ulster Bank-backed Frinailla acquisitions, being off-loaded by plc Cairn Homes as part of their Project Clear purchase, which transacted in late 2015 for more than €500m with a par value on the original loans of €2bn.

Cairn Homes is likely to concentrate on building in the Dublin region, where it now controls more than 1,600 acres and could build 18,000 homes there, although it has investigated select Cork opportunities in recent months, according to sources. Also among their Project Clear Cork acquisitions was a Kinsale housing site, at AbbeyFort.

Other Dublin developer interest is expected to challenge limited Cork-based offers for the €30m sites put to market in lots this week, for disposal by private treaty with offers sought by June 8.

Most valuable, and of keenest interest, will be at Castletreasure, Douglas, with some 52 acres possibly optimistically valued at c €25m, and set for the most intriguing bidding activity.

It has scope for 400-550 homes; it is being touted as the next Mount Oval, or Maryborough Woods site of scale and the best site to come up for sale in almost a decade in the southern capital.

The 52 acres include sections set aside for civic/neighbourhood and sporting uses, plus a school.

Whether builders/developers are prepared to stretch to average site/stand values of €50,000 or more (depending on density grants) will be of huge market significance and a confidence marker on returns.

The other offers include the troubled and fire-damaged Good Shepherd Convent Sunday’s Well 7.8 acre site, now guiding €1.5m and bought for a reported but never confirmed €20m from a Pat Hegarty-related company who’d acquired it from UCC.

At one stage, it had planning for up to 260 units, in new-build blocks, plus convent conversion. The elevated, south-facing site has access issues and includes a number of graves, while the convent was damaged by fire.

Also in the mix is a Dennehys Cross half acre site in the western suburbs near UCC and the CUH. It’s guided at €1.5m, and is diagonally opposite the completed, and re-sold, Frinailla Orchard Gardens development of 140 apartments above a Tesco Express and Ramen restaurant.

Frinailla had negotiated the two Dennehys Cross former garage/bar sites off-market in the early 2000s, for undisclosed sums, and the larger, completed site Orchard Gardens was bought by the Comer brothers more than two years ago for c €16m, as part of the c €75m Project Gemini disposal by Ulster Bank of residential units in Dublin (500) and Cork.

It’s likely the Comers’ Cork purchase has doubled, if not trebled, in value since, with all the residential units fully let.

This smaller €1.5m/0.5 acre site with Savills has frontage to the Model Farm Road by the church, and has FPP for a commercial showroom, three townhouses and a mix of 28 one, two and three-bed apartments overhead.

Considerable focus now is likely to be on apartments development to sate UCC’s spiralling demand for student accommodation, and private units would also rent or sell readily.

Meanwhile, other Frinailla sites, such as a significant 1.3 acre assembly by the City Library on Grand Parade and South Main Street by the Events Centre site, plus a major completed apartment/mixed use development City Square on Watercourse Road, have been put into loan sales via Nama.

They are among the offers in the Project Emerald and Ruby portfolio, valued at up to €4.7bn and are currently active in the market, being pursued by a number of international funds. City Square on Watercourse Road had been expected to go to market last year, valued at c €25m, before it was put into the loan sale/Project Emerald and Ruby.

Seen as the top residential lot in Savills’ The Treasure Collection is the Douglas/Castletreasure site assembled from off-market purchases from land owners by Frinailla, at undisclosed values.

At market peak, Frinailla had c 70 acres secured on the edge of Douglas village, and completed the adjacent Carrs Hill/Castletreasure Vicarage scheme of houses, and the Temple Grove apartments blocks, with a c €5.5/6m sale of 35 Temple Grove units via receiver and Savills to a private investor last year.

Savills’ Cork office director Peter O’Meara notes “with housing stock in Cork at an all-time low, developers will welcome these sites particularly given their ability to deliver a large volume and wide range of unit types.”

Of the Castletreasure lands, he says it’s “the largest and best residential development site to come to the market in the past 10 years and is probably Cork’s finest residential development site. We anticipate that there will be strong interest both locally and nationally.”

DETAILS: Savills, 021 4271371


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