Life stirs at €84 million Portlaoise Anglo-Irish crashed project

Work has begun at landmark Maltings Minch Norton site that was the location of an €84million boom project

Life stirs at €84 million Portlaoise Anglo-Irish crashed project
By Conor Ganly news@leinsterexpress.ie @laoisnews

New plans are in the pipeline for a landmark site in Portlaoise which was the subject of an €84 million building boom gamble which collapsed during the property crash.

Pat Flanagan, director of Owenass Construction, has confirmed to the Leinster Express that he is involved with the redevelopment of the Maltings Minch Norton site in Portlaoise.

A planning application for new entrance walls and the demolition of an existing unstable wall at the Maltings site in Portlaoise was recently lodged with Laois County Council.

The site faces onto Coote St, Harpers Lane, the railway and Roselawn.

Mr Flanagan confirmed the site is earmarked for new houses, apartments, a crèche, a convenience store and office space.

He said the site is zoned Town Centre, which means it can accommodate a wide range of uses.

The developers are also considering the inclusion of an area specially designed for the elderly as part of the masterplan for the site.

They say it would be “an ideal location” for older people given its closeness to the train station.

Mr Flanagan also said it would also be attractive to commuters.

The owners of the six acre site are The Maltings and Granary Ltd, of which Mr Flanagan is a director/shareholder. They purchased the site in 2015.

When asked about the timing of the development, Mr Flanagan said that the property market in Portlaoise “was ready to take off” and said he hopes to commence construction in 9 to 15 months, when the full planning process is complete.

He said very few houses were built between 2007 and 2017, and meantime rental costs have increased dramatically due to very high demand.

He said this development will help meet the current housing need in Portlaoise town centre and provide homes for those unable to gain accommodation presently.

Mr Flanagan said it is intended that the development would be completed in phases which significantly eases the demand for funding. He added that recent discussions with the financial institutions indicate that the banks would be happy to support the scheme.

The developer said that 10% of the scheme would be available for Social houses, and that all of the houses on the scheme would be affordable.

He said he would be open to meeting Irish Rail to discuss car parking for the train station.

The former Maltings and Minch Norton buildings are not part of the project - they were separated when the site was sold in 2011.

A previous builder had planned a nine story development in 2006, but the plans fell through due to the economic crash. The current owners purchased the site from the receiver at a depressed price. As a result, Mr Flanagan said the company feel certain that they can offer would-be purchasers very good value for money.

An asking price of €25 million was put on the site in 2008 as a forced sale. Maryborough Construction Holdings Ltd had already drawn down €23.5 million of a €84.5 million loan advanced by Anglo Irish Bank to purchase and develop the site.

The company tried to find an investor buyer to rescue the project at a cost of €33 million, but failed.

At the time it was reported as the first forced sale of a significant development site in this country since the start of the property crash.

The Maltings shopping centre was to have comprised 16,460sq m (177,175sq ft) of retail over three levels and a multi-storey car-park with 678 spaces. The plan also provided for a six-storey office block extending to 2,967sq m (31,936sq ft) over the retail area.The biggest obstacle faced by the developers was the failure to attract a supermarket to anchor the project. Tesco decided to remain at the redeveloped Laois Shopping Centre while Dunnes moved to the Kyle Centre. SuperValu moved into Parkside.