Here comes the bridal centre

Blarney Business Park, Cork

Bigger than a wedding marquee - that’s the proposed new national Bridal Centre.

At 10,000 sq ft, this off-the-peg mega showroom is big enough to house a fleet of wedding party cars and a wedding reception, as well as many hundreds of dresses.

A unique selling point of the planned super-sized bridal outlet, with national reach, is range of stock, in all sizes - meaning a bride could, theoretically, almost walk in and buy a dress on her Big Day... and there’d be an excuse for being the customary few minutes late walking up the aisle.

Behind the venture is third generation clothes retailer Ross O’Dowling, who sold the family-owned 15,000 sq ft Moderne shop on Cork city’s Patrick Street early last year, in a multi-million euro deal to Davy/private investors, and who are currently fitting that shop out for tenants SuperDry.

At the time of the sale, and cutting his cloth to a new measure, Mr O’Dowling revealed he was courting an accessible retail park outlet for a national bridal centre. He is already one of the country’s largest bridal wear specialists, with customers nationwide, along with emigrants returning home to wed. Now, deals have just been sewn up on three former motor trade showrooms, each a glass box of 10,000 sq ft, with internal lifts and offices and each is on an acre or more, at the Blarney Business Park just north of Cork city.

The trio were offered by Declan Hickey of Downing Commercial and David McCarthy of Lisney, with the first going to best bids in November, and the other two sales following suit.

One has been bought by an investor, another by an investor with an office-type user lined up and the centre one is to house the ambitious major bridal wear business, by experienced clothes retailer O’Dowling, who has specialised in this niche market in the Moderne and other city centre outlets. Mr O’Dowling has also just leased a building on Lavitts Quay for a smaller city centre bridal shop: it’s in the former Flor Griffin Store next to the Kilkenny Gift Shop in a deal done via Lisney.

The three impressive, grass-roofed showrooms at the Blarney Business Park five miles from the city centre were developed at a then-reported cost of €16 million by O’Sullivans/Top Car of Newmarket, in 2006 at the economy’s peak, as the property and motor markets roared, and before both slumped in tandem.

Now, the car sales trade has finally picked up again, yet clearly the commercial property market is lagging behind in terms of recovery. Each of these three showrooms has changed hands for just close to their €250,000 price guide: that equates to a mere €25 per square foot, the cost of a country bungalow, or a three-bed suburban semi-d.

The sales of the three buildings, which were established to house six motor marques, were on behalf of Michael Cotter of Ernst & Young, who handled the voluntary liquidation of the Drive Motor Group which encompassed Top Car. At the time, 30 jobs were lost, and at peak it employed 80. When the trio of showrooms opened at the slow-to-develop Blarney Park, the €16m spend was said to be “the largest investment in a single site, by a single owner anywhere in Ireland to date”.

Builders of the units, just off the Cork-Mallow/Limerick N20 were Bowen Construction, who were also major backers of the park along with local investors, and design was by Wilson Architects. It currently houses an NCT centre among several other businesses.

Details: Downing Commercial 021-4271000

Lisney 021-4275079


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