Number of developers keen on Irish Street site

Number of developers keen on Irish Street site

9 September 2020

A SIGNIFICANT number of property developers have expressed an interest in redeveloping a near two-acre site in the heart of Downpatrick.

The Recorder can reveal that while a few of those who have registered an interest in the former Irish Street police station site and a number of adjacent empty buildings are private individuals, the vast majority are either property developers or have a property background.

To date, 26 expressions of interest have been made about how the site could be developed, with the closing date for others to come forward next Friday, September 18. 

It is also being suggested that a preferred bidder could be appointed to oversee the ambitious regeneration project as early as next month.

A formal public consultation exercise to gather views on how the major development of the town centre site should proceed was launched last July, with developers asked to submit expressions of interest in transforming the major site to help bolster the town’s economic recovery.

The Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council are driving the ambitious plans to redevelop a huge site which includes the Irish Street car park and stretches as far back as St Patrick’s Avenue.

The site is described as a “strategic and prominent location in the heart of Downpatrick” and senior council officials, politicians and members of the business community are excited about its development potential.

While the former police base enjoys protected status, it is hoped that potential developers will be able to come up with an imaginative plan for the historic building and that a preferred bidder will be appointed as early as October and as late as the end of the year.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council and the Department for Communities are keen to revitalise Irish Street and hope that its redevelopment will act as a catalyst for the wider economic and social regeneration of the town. 

Both organisations have worked closely to facilitate the creation of a development scheme in order to present a more attractive scheme for developers, with council officials describing interest in the town centre location as “positive.”

ARUP consultants have been appointed to oversee the consultation along with Lambert Smith Hampton estate agents with the high level of interest expressed in the town centre site welcomed by Downpatrick area councillor Dermot Curran.

He said the overall aim of the regeneration proposal is to strengthen and improve the features which give Irish Street its unique character.

“Developers keen to develop the site are being asked to create an innovative and inclusive place of the highest urban design quality with their ideas including sufficient car parking to support any new development which is critically important,” he said,.

“While the idea is to attract new businesses to Downpatrick, the redeveloped site must also support existing traders who have been at the heart of the town’s economy by significantly increasing footfall.”

Cllr Curran believes the site offers a “unique opportunity” and represents important regeneration, development and employment opportunities.

“This is the last remaining site in the town centre that is suitable for redevelopment and we need to get this right,” he continued. “The fact that local people are being asked for their views so there can be agreement on a project is a ‘win, win’ for everyone.

“I am also pleased that a key government department is working alongside Newry, Mourne and Down Council which means there is support at local and central government levels to regenerate Downpatrick town centre.”

Cllr Curran said he was keen to see the ideas suggested by potential developers and believed the redevelopment could act as an economic catalyst for the wider regeneration of the town centre.

He added: “This project has the potential to change the face of retailing in Downpatrick town centre by attracting more shoppers which will provide a boost for existing businesses. I and others are excited about the development site’s potential and hope it won’t be too long before we see contractors on site.”

Details of the Irish Street site are available via the online portal where developers and the wider public can view the brochure and submit expressions of interest and general feedback.