Strong, across-the-board developer and investor/developer interest is being shown in Cork City’s former Debenhams premises on St Patrick’s Street which is on the market for €20m, say selling agents Cushman & Wakefield, as they also bring the gleaming order Douglas Village Shopping Centre to market this week with a €21m price guide.
“There is a strong determination to have a deal done on Debenhams this year,” asserts Cushman & Wakefield Cork MD Peter O’Flynn, confirming wider property market observations that the 1.4-acre property site, the iconic Roches Stores building, is getting very active inquiries from both local and national developers, as well as investment interests.
One of the key retail presences on the city’s main retail strip, it came to market this summer along with Debenhams, Henry Street in Dublin, at a combined total of €75m, and, since, there has been interest in them separately, and also from some well-backed investors/developers combined.
The positive news for Cork comes as Dunnes is currently fitting out the ground floor of its vacant premises next door to the Debenhams/Roches building on Merchants Quay for supermarket ‘big trolley’ shopping, having let it idle for several years after doing its flagship store on the Irish retail giant’s historic first-ever store, on St Patrick’s Street. Dunnes has basement-level supermarket shopping in its newer development, across the street, but it is more ‘convenience’ pitched, while the multi-storey car park at Merchants Quay is a major bonus and already serves a SuperValu there in the ‘old’ Roches Stores supermarket space.
Uses being posited for the Debenhams building’s redevelopment span retail, leisure, and a range of accommodation, including possibly apartments, hotel, and even student accommodation at the back end/Maylor Street section, especially if UCC proceeds with its proposed city centre business campus on South Terrace.
“The site is a challenge, but it’s all doable and where would you ever get anything like it again in the heart of Cork city centre,” says Mr O’Flynn, saying there has already been a shift in the axis along Caroline Street and Oliver Plunkett Street which will lift the Maylor Street area between St Patrick’s Street and Parnell Place.
The retail interest is in breaking up into several ‘big box’ units at the main St Patrick’s Street end, rather than one single major occupier, and the leisure interest is more for Maylor Street, with big name operators in the bar and restaurant sectors known to have been inquiries.
Among those with a possible interest could be Clarendon Properties who have links nationally to the Press Up Entertainment group who own multiple bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, and hotels (The Dean, etc) and have good investor backing, as well as the likes of JCD Group who did the Capitol, O’Callaghan Properties, and the O’Flynn Group who are advising Penneys on its own St Patrick’s Street expansion plans.
Meanwhile, while the large St Patrick’s Street property at the €20m guide is a development play, the arrival to market this week of Douglas Village Shopping Centre for sale will have an appeal to investors and funds as it is fully developed, on its six-acre suburban plot.
It carries an ‘excess €21m’ guide (excl Vat) with Cushman & Wakefield’s Peter O’Flynn and retail director Karl Stewart, with a current €2.4m rental income of which 54% comes from large occupiers and has scope to bring that closer to €2.7m if remaining vacant units are let, bringing in €300,000 to €350,000 extra in rents.
The centre, anchored by Tesco (who owns its own 90,000sq ft two-store) and M&S, with TK Maxx and Eurogiant other large presences, was completely redeveloped with up to 46 units in 2007, and a 1,000-space multi-storey car park on top, having been first built in 1971 by Clayton Love Jnr, as Ireland’s second-ever shopping centre after the Stillorgan Shopping Centre in Dublin.
It was hit by a serious fire in 2019 after a car burst into flames, causing up to €30m worth of damage and loss of business claims, but was well insured and currently has claims going through the Commercial Court against car manufacturers Opel.
It had to shut for rebuilding for over a year, reopening again in late 2021 during the coronavirus pandemic which also hit traders there, but several deals are in negotiation with one well advanced in legals, it is understood.
The fully refreshed and secured centre, on six prime acres, is one of two in the heart of Cork’s affluent suburb of Douglas, both of which were developed by Clayton Love Jnr and later linked to his Shipton Group. Douglas Village Shopping Centre celebrated its 50th anniversary last year and the Love family has also developed major shopping centres in Wilton and Blackpool.
At a very attractive €21m guide, it offers a net initial yield of 10.42%, allowing for standard purchase costs of 9.96% on the current income of €2.407m, and vendors Shipton Group and its financiers are “in a position to provide debt terms to a proposed purchaser”, according to Cushman & Wakefield. The weighted average unexpired lease term is seven years to break options (a number of the small units are on short-term leases) and 11 years to expiry.
Expecting good investor/fund interest, selling agent Mr O’Flynn says that “Douglas Village Shopping Centre plays a strong part of the history of suburban shopping centres in Ireland and was the first of its kind outside Dublin when originally developed by the Love family in the early 1970s”.
“It has played an important part in the in the ongoing expansion of the southside of Cork City and, having been redeveloped in 2007 with a more recent refit, it is in excellent condition throughout and will provide new owners a significant opportunity to acquire a high yielding asset, with further financial returns going forward.”
Meanwhile, also in Douglas, East Douglas Village development, sold as an investment this time last year for €11m, a new letting has just concluded to BiteSize cafe.
Letting agent Amanda Isherwood of Lisney said a rent of around €15,000 per annum for the first five years of a 15-year lease was secured for a 500sq ft unit in Barry House (vacated by Douglas Law) in the mixed-use/retail-led scheme and after “an extensive fitout they opened their doors this week”.
It’s the third Cork cafe that BiteSize has opened in recent years, in business since 2005 in Midleton and also opening in Main Street, Ballincollig, in 2017.
“Having sold the investment just over 12 months ago we are delighted to see the development at 100% occupancy,” said Ms Isherwood.
Details: Cushman & Wakefield 021 4275454
Lisney -21 4275079