A large tract of “profoundly significant” development land owned by the Parish and Presentation sisters in Portlaoise town centre, may sell for as little as €2.5m.
The 8-acres from Ridge Road to Church Avenue, takes in preserved buildings, the Parochial house and Presentation Convent, Sacred Heart and Scoil Mhuire schools, greenfield areas and the site of the demolished church.
The parish owns 37 percent of the land, with the rest owned by the order.
Parish Priest Monsignor John Byrne said they are “testing the waters” by putting the lands up for sale as one lot.
“I don’t envisage that it will happen very quickly,” he said, adding that if there is little interest, they may revert to “Plan B”, to sell the sites as separate lots.
“It includes the parochial house, and priests' houses because some people expressed the idea that as these open onto the Dublin road, they are strategic and would attract buyers,” Msgr Byrne told the Leinster Express.
Selling as one unit “allows for a mix of use” he said.
“It is hard to say what the vision would be. It will certainly be a big change of use and of life to the centre of town,” he said.
Parish primary schools will benefit from the sale.
“We already purchased the school site in Aughnaharna for €1.25 million, we don’t expect to get that back. We are now developing Scoil Bhride, I hope we can contribute to the development of both schools,” he said.
The parish and the Presentation Provincialate issued a joint statement.
“This 8.01 acre site is very important for Portlaoise and its proper development represents an opportunity to breathe new life into the town centre. We hope that can be achieved,” they stated.
The sisters declined to comment further.
Zoned “Town Centre Primary”, the sites can be for retail, commercial, institutional, recreational or educational needs.
“The Council views the site as profoundly significant for the economic and social viability of our county town. Its development is a key component of any future plans for the regeneration of the traditional core of Portlaoise,” said the CEO of Laois County Council, John Mulholland, adding that the council would encourage any high standard of development to help “ win back the Main Street”.
The site is expected to sell for about €2.5million.
“We’ve already had a strong interest in the site, we expect there will be a lot of interest now,” John Dunne from Humes Auctioneers said.
“It’s the best site in town, anyone interested in this will be looking at it with a long term view. You can literally do anything with it. It would make a beautiful residential site in the old nun’s garden with the Triogue running through it. But it would be equally good as a commercial site as it’s close to Main Street. Both the zoning and the location are perfect,” he said, adding that they are “open to all approaches”.
The Chairperson of the Downtown traders group would like to see houses and even a third level campus. “The life was sucked out of Main Street when the schools left. We didn’t realise how much trade they brought. I’d like to see people back living in the town,” said Gerry Browne.