Edwards Holdings, the Galway based company that purchased a major site on the Outer Ring Road for €45m from Waterford City Council, has ambitious plans for a 4/5 star hotel, conference centre for 800 delegates and indoor playing pitches to include tennis, basketball and soccer.
There is also a plan for 100,000 square feet of office space close to the airport road that could be compared with the Cork Airport Business Park. The business park could create employment for 800 persons if fully operational.
This would be a self-owned business park/office block type complex, similar to Lapps Quay in Cork where professional businesses would buy their own units.
Mr. Ed Douglas of Douglas, Newman and Goode told The Munster Express such a development would be a great boost to Waterford in the current climate.
Having a four star hotel and conference centre, which could be used to attract high-spending convention business, would be a significant boost to tourism, he added. Also, such a facility could be utilised for concerts and entertainment for audiences of 1,000 upwards. The hotel would be a great boost to the area, not far from the airport and in a part of the city that would be revitalized by its presence.
A cinema is also planned
Already, Edwards Holdings owns the famous G-Hotel in Galway and D-Hotel in Drogheda and the company has also purchased the world famous, five-star Ashford Castle in County Mayo where many prominent guests have stayed over the years.
Discussions with retail and major supermarket groups have been discussed but Waterford City Council is, so far, reluctant to rezone part of the land which would be necessary for the project to proceed. The KRM/Brewery development in the city centre’s Stephen Street area has yet to be given the go ahead by An Bord Pleanala.
Both Mr. Douglas and Mr. Kingston believe there is room in Waterford for city centre shopping and large shopping units on the outer edge of the city. They see a good future for Waterford and their company has another South East investment in Kilkenny’s MacDonagh Junction.
Waterford needs to expand its retail options to stop the drift out of the city
to other places like Cork or Kilkenny. When the N9 motorway opens, the options for motorists will increase and Waterford needs to prepare ahead to keep trade in the area. For instance, the Carlow and Kildare options could emerge more and even Dublin itself could be an alternative.
Mr. Douglas says that finance of €200m to €250m can be made available. Edward Holdings already has a shopping centre in Drogheda called Scotch Hall and Edwards Square in Galway, so they have experience.
It is yet to be seen what the outcome will be of negotiations with City Hall regarding Marks and Spencer who are also wanted in the city centre. Marks and Spencer are definitely interested in Waterford and they have been watching the scene here for a number of years.
A long-term professional with management of 20 shopping centres under his control, he envisages outlets on the outskirts of cities comprising 5,000 to 20,000 square feet. Large sized units of 5,000 square feet are hard to locate especially in the centre of an historic city or town. This hard fact will have to be taken into consideration by planners in the future.
The €250m investment is seen as a major vote of confidence in Waterford by local auctioneer and businessman, Tom Grace, who said there was too much negative sentiment expressed lately, a point noted by other businessmen given the major investment plans for Waterford.
Chamber of Commerce President, Andrew O’Neill, said he would be delighted with the investment plans by Edwards Holdings as they would boost Waterford as the major shopping centre for the South East of Ireland.
Mr. Douglas, whose company also has responsibility for Waterford City Square, says they are planning to rejuvenate City Square where River Island will soon occupy 8,000 square feet where the former City Arms Pub stood on two levels.
There is an ongoing programme of refurbishement in City Square and demand for units is strong, noted Mr. Douglas’ colleague, Nigel Kingston of Douglas Newman Good. Having completed the purchase of the former Sully’s Snooker Club. The company intends to implement further expansion.