Newgate planning design, investment brochure are both very advanced
NAMA is making significant strides towards reviving a more viable version of the proposed Newgate shopping complex in Waterford city centre.
In a letter to Waterford TD John Deasy (dated May 8), the agency’s chairman Frank Daly confirmed that Bannon Property Consultants “have been engaged by the borrower to examine the most commercially feasible options for the development of this site.
“As part of its work, Bannon is engaging with prospective anchor tenants and established commercial/retail developers with a view to ascertaining the level of interest in carrying out a development of the site, either independently or on a joint venture basis with NAMA,” he said.
Mr Daly added that “NAMA is funding the work by Bannon and we have also funded other significant expenditures relating to this site to date.”
The local Fine Gael deputy had raised the matter with Mr Daly at the Dáil Public Accounts Committee last September, and recently made a follow-up enquiry.
Previously, at the PAC, Mr Deasy had stressed the importance of securing substantial investment for the city centre given that the Waterford economy had been “devastated”, particularly the retail sector, over the past five years.
He noted that the 3-acre Michael Street site (a block also taking in New Street, Alexander St and Stephen St) had been identified in the then recently-published Waterford local authority merger implementation committee report, which included the project among its recommended high-level interventions.
At that time Mr Daly signalled that a fresh planning application would be necessary as the previous proposal — permission for which expired late last year — wasn’t commercially viable in the current economic climate; suggesting “a more simplified mix” would suffice.
Now, outlining the most up-to-date position, he wrote: “Based on the feedback from this process and presuming commercial viability, it is intended to finalise and submit a new planning application for the site. Work is significantly advanced in terms of design and layout of the new development and there has been significant and positive engagement with the planning authority.”
The chairman also pointed out that NAMA has part-funded, along with Waterford City Council, a marketing brochure — in the process of being finalised — which is aimed at promoting Waterford City as a retail investment opportunity. “The document,” he said, “highlights, inter alia, the opportunity at Newgate and is targeted at both retailers and developers.”
Deputy John Deasy has said the broadening of the Living City Initiative announced in the 2013 Finance Bill in today's Budget should benefit more Waterford property owners and businesses.
“I explained in the Dáil and the Public Accounts Committee that the scheme, as it was defined initially, would have limited it to Georgian houses built up to 1840,” the Fine Gael TD said. “When I looked at the proposal it made sense but from a practical point of view Waterford wouldn’t have benefitted greatly unless there was some significant enough leeway and the Minister has taken that on board.”
Following further consideration, including a cost-benefit analysis, Michael Noonan has broadened the eligibility criteria to include all buildings built prior to 1915. The scheme, piloted in Waterford and Limerick, has also been extended to Kilkenny, Cork, Galway and Dublin. It will be commenced after EU state approval is secured.
The Initiative is designed to encourage renovation of business premises and period properties in the designated cities by offering tax incentives to eligible owner-occupiers, and will also create jobs in the construction sector locally.
::: Speaking about rates at the PAC on June 20
John tells Public Accounts Committee that revaluation process could leave local retail businesses on brink
Fine Gael TD John Deasy has called on the cabinet to immediately consider the potentially “catastrophic” implications of the rates revaluation process for retailers throughout Waterford city and county.
The Valuation Office has begun a systematic National Revaluation Programme based on a 2011 analysis of non-domestic rental values. Proposed Valuation Certificates have been issued to thousands of commercial and industrial ratepayers across Waterford over the past month.
With the average rateable increase in the retail sector locally around 40–50 per cent, “Make no mistake – people will be put out of business due to this revaluation,” Mr Deasy warned this week. “Many retailers are facing a doubling or even tripling of their commercial rates.
“The South East region has been worst affected by the recession, and the sector worst affected within that region – retail – is in danger of being crushed by this process.”
“In my home town of Dungarvan they are also potentially facing an increase as a result of the abolition of the Town Council and the harmonisation of Town Council rates with the higher County rate. Then there’s Waterford City, where there’s an enormous unemployment rate; approaching 30 per cent in parts.
“The South East region has been worst affected by the recession, and the sector worst affected within that region – retail – is in danger of being crushed by this process,” added Mr Deasy, who met the Commissioner for Valuation in Waterford at the weekend.
He also raised the issue at the Public Accounts Committee last Thursday, where he agreed with retail ratepayers that there’s “a massive disconnect between Dublin and what’s going on on the ground.”
While accepting “the people in the Valuation Office are merely doing their jobs,” Deputy Deasy maintains that “the legislation allowing for the revaluation doesn’t taken into account what’s after happening to the business community these last six or seven years.
“Self-employed people have ended up with massive personal debt and a far smaller customer base. This legislation made no provision for the changing economy. It was written in a different time economically.”
Deputy Deasy also points to the “macro-economic policy issues arising from this revaluation process. In many cases businesses have come to me and said, ‘We’re going to have to leave people off if I have to pay this bill’. That has an effect on the State spend when it comes to unemployment benefits and so on.”
And he insisted: “Someone in Government needs to attempt to understand the implications of rates revaluation. The Government can’t wash their hands of a measure that has the potential to wipe out another chunk of the retail sector.”