CORK City’s sprawling former Debenhams/Roches Stores landmark property may see a mix of fashion and sports retail, supermarket, office space and hospitality in its new ownership under purchaser Intersport Elverys, which is posed to make a return to the premiere retail street St Patrick’s Street after a 50-year gap.
The successful purchaser, Irish-controlled sports retailer Elverys is likely to occupy just 20-30% of the iconic 1920s-built store on 1.6 acres, next to Brown Thomas, Marks & Spencers and will align with other users on leases with detailed analysis of how best to use the entire 160,000 sq ft property, with secondary frontage to Maylor Street and access to a multi-storey car park at the Merchants Quay Shopping Centre.
It’s likely the company will develop between 25,000 and 40,00 sq ft for its own “flagship” use, over two floors with stores, said spokesperson Ger Flanagan who instanced sizes at other key flagship stores at Dublin’s Fonthill at 22,500 sq ft, at Dundrum with 25,000 sq ft and at Galway Retail Park where it has 17,000 sq ft.
Intersport Elverys already has two Cork presences, at Oliver Plunkett Street and at Kinsale Road Retail Centre with 7,000 sq ft occupied there since 2016.
The purchase of Cork City centre’s Debenhams store for an unconfirmed €12m via agent Cushman & Wakefield (which had posted a €20m AMV initially) sees the 1847-founded sport company return to Cork’s ‘Pana’. It had traded for decades at 78 St Patrick’s Street, with the signature ‘Elephant House’ subtitle which it inherited at its first-ever Dublin store on Sackville Street.
It’s Ireland’s oldest sports company, with 57 stores nationwide and over 700 employees, after a purchase by Mayo’s John Staunton in the 1990s and an alignment with global sports brand, Intersport.
Elverys took the plunge to buy the old Roches Stores/Debenhams as part of its corporate capital investment strategy which sees some premises owned and other leased. It recently purchased a new Tralee store, a listed building which had been closed for 14 years and upgraded it, adding energy-efficient features to that older structure.
Spokesperson Mr Flanagan told the Irish Examiner: “We own between 30-40% of outlets. It is a capital investment strategy, but never possible to own the entire portfolio,” and said ownership allowed them to “invest meaningfully into the store and apply and maintain our ongoing commitment to utilising solar energy in our stores.”
A target date of late 2023 is set for Elverys’ own new presence and “the rest of the spaces will be leased out to others, some of which will be some very well-known traders that Elverys has maintained good relations with.” While none are advanced enough to reveal at present Mr Flanagan revealed “right now, we can foresee a mix of fashion and sports retail, supermarket, office space and hospitality”.
The firm promises “a premium experience on a very important shopping thoroughfare. The building is an iconic structure and deserves to be treated appropriately. We respect heritage and tradition in our business and we will apply this same strategy to this project.”
It is understood an earlier bidder on the building was Sport Direct, which pulled out after advanced talks of the Cork store.
The Fraser Group/Sports Direct is currently fitting out a Flannels clothing store directly across the street from Debenhams, and also took over the former Debenhams footprint at Cork’s Mahon Point for a dual Fraser/Sports Direct presence. It also bought the old Debenhams store in Dublin’s Henry Street for c €50 via Cushman & Wakefield.
Cushman & Wakefield’s Cork managing director Peter O’Flynn said: “The sale of this property was a challenge from beginning to end as it was such a large building facing onto our prime city-centre thoroughfare. Consequently, it fell into many sectors of industry from retail occupiers looking initially at Patrick Street to developer/investors looking at the entire property and delivering end uses throughout the site.”
While initial levels of interest were very encouraging, he said that “viability challenges for city-centre development resulted in many of the developers ruling the property out as a realistic commercial opportunity at the value levels”.
“The parties who actually engaged and led the demand ended up being a mixture of both, companies with frontline ret