New owner of Clerys building announces rejuvenation plan

Group says rejuvenation will lead to 1,700 new jobs but staff say proposals ‘wishy washy’

Staff of Clerys were joined by family members and supporters outside the O’Connell Street, Dublin store in support of the workers who lost their jobs when the company went into liquidation last Friday. Video: Bryan O'Brien

 

Natrium, the joint venture which last week acquired the Clerys building, has said it intends to invest in the rejuvenation of the property in a move that will ultimately lead to the creation of a minimum of 1,700 jobs in Dublin city centre.

In its first public comments since it announced the acquisition, the group said it was “conscious that the necessary closure of the department store has had a very serious impact on the former employees.”

Clerys was sold by Boston-based Gordon Brothers to Natrium , which comprises Irish investment group D2 Private, and Cheyne Capital Management in the UK, with financing from Quadrant Real Estate Advisers.

OCS Operations Ltd, which ran the department store, was then placed into liquidation in dramatic fashion, resulting in the immediate closure of the department store.

Natrium confirmed on Friday it is now planning to redevelop the property, which is held in a separate company.

“The Clerys building can be transformed to create a major new mixed use destination in Dublin city centre and to create large numbers of sustainable jobs. There is strong demand from international retailers and other commercial users for unique and best in class spaces within the city centre that is not currently being met. Natrium looks forward to proceeding with its plans for the Clerys properties and the surrounding area in compliance with Dublin City Council planning policy,” a spokesman for the company said in a statement.

Staff protest

About 40 former employees of Clerys have staged a protest outside the Dublin offices of Natrium.

Siptu organiser Teresa Hannick said the former employees would have little faith in the “wishy washy” statement issued by Natrium Ltd on Friday would translate into secure employment.

Natrium did not offer any further comments regarding the treatment of former Clery employees or concession holders. However, it said job creation would feature significantly in its plans for the building with approximately 1,000 jobs supported throughout the planning, design, refurbishment and construction stages of the scheme over a two-year period. It claimed that on completion, “a predominantly retail-led development” would generate “a minimum of 1,700 new sustainable jobs in Dublin city centre.”

“A rejuvenation of the Clerys building will assist in the revitalisation of this area, create significant new employment and will make a very real and lasting contribution to the city centre,” it said.

Legal matter

The group said it had been advised “that all issues with respect to the liquidation of the operating company are legally a matter for the court-appointed liquidator.”

“Natrium recognises that the Clerys building has been a very important institution for generations of Dubliners, and in particular for those who have worked there over the years. We are conscious that the necessary closure of the department store has had a very serious impact on the former employees,” the group said.

Concession holders claim they are owed some €2 million in stock and cash from Clerys. The holders removed stock from the store on Wednesday.

Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash wrote to the owners of Natrium over their future plans for the building earlier this week.

In the letter, Mr Nash said he wanted to discuss, at the earliest opportunity, “the situation regarding the unexpected liquidation of OCS Operations, the subsequent redundancy of Clerys’ workers and your plans for the future of the iconic Clerys site”

Siptu has launched an online petition in support of Clerys workers which demands that the store’s new owners meet with the former staff.