Dundalk prepares for competition

 

The development of Newry may not be viewed entirely with joy in Dundalk, Co Louth. The town is undergoing a sea-change in the retail sector.

A new £24 million shopping, residential and leisure complex, the Carroll Village, with Superquinn as the anchor tenant, is planned for the former Carroll's cigarette factory site in the town centre. The retail phase is currently the subject of a planning objection and An Bord Pleanala is expected to announce its decision next month.

For many years, Dundalk was the shopping base for the adjoining counties, including areas of Armagh. "That all changed for a good number of reasons," says Gerry Maguire of Parolen Properties. "There were the Troubles, difficulties in sterling and the fact that shopping facilities here were not changing with the times."

That situation has changed. Parolen was behind the Long Walk shopping centre, a 120,000-squarefoot development which opened in 1994 and has Crazy Prices and Penneys as anchor tenants.

"I think you will find people say that the development has lifted the centre of town," says Mr Maguire. "The shop frontages on a lot of the Clanbrassil Street area are of very high quality and the traders upgraded their properties as business returned." He believes Carroll Village will have a similar effect on the northern end of town, the Clanbrassil, Church and Bridge streets area.

Originally, Parolen Properties had intended to open a 70,000square-foot US-style discount outlet in the town, the first of its kind in the country, as part of a northeast Mourne country tourist initiative, but the development was refused planning permission following local objections.

The new development is a fourfold one, based around retail, residential, leisure and possibly offices, with Superquinn as the retail anchor. Superquinn closed its Dundalk store in 1982 (the site is now occupied by fast-food outlet Supermacs) when the size of the unit and parking considerations made it unprofitable. It is now to spend £8 million on the acquisition and fitting of the 40,000-square-foot unit on the Carroll Village site.

A further 44,000 square feet of retail space will be aimed at large UK multiples, a 45,000-square-foot development of 60 apartments is currently under construction and the third phase of the scheme will include a multiplex cinema, family entertainment centre, a restaurant and a hotel.

Two buildings on the site, are also to be refurbished - Carroll House for retail use and Dundalk House for office or residential use.

Carroll Village is now being marketed as a means of strengthening Dundalk's trading position from a district to a regional shopping base in the face of Newry's development. "We would be hopeful that we would have four of the UK retailers new to Dundalk, which we expect would counteract the effects of Newry," says Mr Maguire.