The prospects of finally completing a partially built €50 million shopping centre in Limerick city have been greatly enhanced as discussions continue between the promoter and the UK giant retailer Marks & Spencer which has still to open its first outlet in the city.
Sources in the M&S camp said they had been offered extremely attractive terms to anchor the Parkway Valley shopping centre which was abandoned five years ago when Liam Carroll’s Zoe Group collapsed.
A Northern Ireland-based developer, Indian-born Suneil Sharma, who acquired the 15-acre site on the Dublin Road, told The Irish Times that “these discussions (with M&S) are ongoing and we very much hope we come to a successful conclusion.”
M&S would probably opt for a store of between 7,432 and 9,290 sq m (80,000/100,000 sq ft) in such a highly populated location where it would be expected to trade exceptionally well. The promoter is also looking for a second anchor tenant for another outlet extending to 7,432 sq m (80,000 sq ft) which might well appeal to Penneys even though they already trade in the city centre as well as at the Crescent shopping centre.
M&S originally planned to open their first Limerick store at the Crescent but to no one’s surprise the move was blocked by both Limerick County Council and An Bord Pleanala. The board ruled that a further extension of the shopping centre would aggravate traffic concession in the area.
The Crescent has been blamed for the heavy loss of retail business in the city centre. Developer Michael Tiernan has come with the novel idea of housing M&S in a new building to be developed on part of a small public park between Arthur’s Quay shopping centre and the river Shannon. There have been no indications yet that the corpo would buy into this plan, even if it meant that they could corner some of the rent.
The Zoe Group had completed the foundations, concrete floors and much of the steel work for the Parkway Valley centre before the National Irish Bank-owned by the Danske Bank-pulled down the shutters on Liam Carroll. The building site as well as an adjoining retail park were sold to Mr Sharma for a figure estimated at around €30m. The retail park had been producing a rental income of close to €3m.
The local authority has extended the planning permission for the shopping centre by four years. The original permission envisaged an overall floor area of 39,650 sq m (426,792 sq ft) to accommodate 50 shops, three anchor tenants and 1,650 car-parking spaces.
Mr Sharma has an intimate knowledge of the Limerick property market having spent a number of years assembling a site in the city centre for the proposed Opera shopping centre. He sold it at the height of the market for around €100m to a group headed by property adviser David Courtney and developer Gerry O’Reilly. He also involved in the development of a retail park at Childers Road whicfh was later sold to Alanis, the company controlled by the Dublin-based McCormack family.
At one stage it was thought that M&S might opt for the Opera centre but after buying it for a knockdown price of €12.5 million the city council is expected to opt for a mixed development involving a third level college, student accommodation and offices as well as some retail units. Source: The Irish Times