Dermot Keyes & Eoghan Dalton
Long-awaited works on Waterford’s North Quays will commence in the fourth quarter of this year after Falcon Real Estate Development re-asserted its commitment to the €350 million project last week.
In a statement issued just hours before our last edition hit news stands, a Falcon spokesperson confirmed “that work on the project is likely to start before the end of the current year”.
Following a query by City & County Councillor Adam Wyse (FF), it’s been established that Falcon will carry out construction works within the Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) come the Autumn/Winter period.
Waterford City & County Council will carry out demolition and contract works in a similar timeframe, with Kilkenny County Council conducting “construction works on the Serviced Lands Initiatives in the Ferrybank/Belview area”.
In a statement issued early on Tuesday morning last (6.33am to be precise), Falcon Real Estate Development Ireland reasserted its commitment developing the North Quays and Michael Street sites.
Falcon stated its intention to fully deliver on its vision for Waterford: “to be the go-to destination for living, working, shopping and entertainment and is currently focused on the pre-development and planning phases with a view to being site active during the last quarter of 2019”.
The eight hectare North Quay Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) site is to “comprise a sustainable mix of 46,900 square metres convenience & comparison retail facilities, leisure, dining destinations and a Waterford Visitor Experience. Complementary to the scheme and core to its values of diversity a 200-room Four Star Hotel & Conference Centre, 15,000 square metres prime Office space, and 300 riverside apartments will be delivered in a contemporaneous and phased approach”.
The site, according to Falcon “is set to become one of Ireland’s most modern transport hubs, connecting the site locally and nationally with Rail, Bus, Greenway, Pedestrian and Electric Bus with a link-bridge to Waterford city centre across the River Suir. It will blend carefully planned infrastructure investments with tourism, retail, business and living needs. Visitors will be able to enjoy easy parking, quality restaurants and cafes with over 35,000 square metres of green open space and a riverside promenade and integral part of the recently opened Waterford-Dungarvan Greenway. Falcon Real Estate Development’s vision is to create a new focus for Waterford city and a destination that is firmly integrated with the local community, offering opportunities for living, working and socializing.”
The unprecedented development will provide a major economic boost for both Waterford and the South East.
“The total estimated investment is estimated to be €350 million in the development, phased over three to five years,” according to Falcon. “A total of 2,300 full time roles will be created during the development of the new district, with an additional 4,500 indirect jobs. The planned completed integration of the scheme with the existing urban centre of the City, will confirm Waterford as the Gateway City of the South East Region, increasing regional and national visitation, tourism and will serve to reverse regional economic leakage. Combined with the forecasted 2040 population growth of 181,000 people for the South East, the retail market size in the South East is expected to grow from €3.49 billion in 2015 to €6.30 billion in 2025.”
According to information received by Cllr Adam Wyse (FF), Falcon will submit a planning application for the SDZ within the next six to seven weeks.
By the third quarter of the year. Waterford City & County Council will submit a Part 8 planning application for the Transportation Hub, which is expected to come before the newly elected Council in July.
By the fourth quarter of the year, Waterford City & County Council will commence its demolition contract and enabling works while Kilkenny County Council will undertake construction works on the Serviced Lands Initiatives in Ferrybank/Belview area. For its part, Falcon is expected to commence construction works within the SDZ site.
Come Q2 of 2020, Waterford City & County Council will commence a construction contract for the Sustainable Transport Bridge, followed in Q3 by commencing a construction contract for Access Infrastructure and the Transport Hub. Said Cllr Wyse: “In relation to jobs, we expect there will be 2,300 direct jobs during the construction stage and this will have a knock-on impact on the wider economy by creating 4,600 indirect jobs. In terms of expenditure the direct spend on the project is €500 million.”
Last Tuesday’s news was greeted with an element of relief, with Fine Gael Senator Paudie Coffey commenting he was “glad there has been public confirmation” from the developer. “It reassures people. We had the commitment from the local authority, we had the commitment from government, but now we have the final piece of the jigsaw in the commitment from the developer,” he said. Concerns had been raised after the funding made available for the project through the first tranche of the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund last November was more than half short of the amount applied for: €6 million being secured instead of €20.1 million.
Senator Coffey said he has been told by the Minster for Finance and the Minster for Housing that further tranche of URDF funding will be made available in the coming months. City & County Council Chief Executive Michael Walsh said the public announcement represents another phase of the development. He said he disagreed with fears that the government was not supportive of the project: “It was one that I didn’t share to be honest about it.” He said there is a “reasonable acceptance at national level that State funding is required” for large infrastructural developments.”
Paudie Coffey added that commitment would now have to be shown by State agencies including the IDA: “It’s obvious now that the developers are engaging and I would also encourage others to actively engage with the developer, like the IDA, on matters like office space.” This was echoed by the Waterford Chamber of Commerce which said the city currently lacks an available stock of well-located and high-range office accommodation. “The North Quays site is a great opportunity to address the lack of suitable office space which is required to attract companies looking to invest in Ireland,” said chief executive Gerald Hurley.
Said Waterford Business Group Chairman Michael Garland: “The joint North Quay and Michael Street projects should bring much need investment to the City and wider region. It is vital, from prospective retail investors’ point of view, that real timelines are scoped out, so businesses can decide if this is the right time to invest in Waterford City.”Of course, the longer the actual project sits, the more nervous we all become. Government must play its part and release the promised circa €100 million of infrastructure funding, as outlined in recent reports.”
He added: “However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that we need to also concentrate on our historic, existing City Centre. To create an international destination in its own right. The way we shop, the way we access retailers is changing rapidly. Waterford City needs to adapt to meet those changes and the Council have a huge part to play and shaping that future. To create a City of scale and a City that we can all be proud of will take effort, guile, vision and an awful lot of hard work.”Welcoming the news, Cllr John Cummins (FG) added: “Separately an oral hearing on the new (sustainable transport) bridge will take place in the coming weeks and we are progressing the detailed design of the road infrastructure/rock face stabilisation and the new city centre access route at Browne’s Lane/Hennessey’s Road has commenced.”