Lisburn Square site bought for £2m but it cost £23m to build
A UK property firm has said its takeover of a major retail development in Lisburn - which was on the market for a tenth of its former value - will be the first of several acquisitions in Northern Ireland.
Lisburn Square was on the market for £2.25m, but built at a staggering £23m.
Now its new owner Marcol is planning to focus on adding places to eat along with indigenous firms.
And while the sale price was not disclosed, it's understood the 14-year-old retail site fetched close to its asking price.
Since it opened back in 2001, many of the 90,000 sq ft site's smaller shops have shut, leaving more than 50% of the units vacant.
Marcol's Terence Cole said plans are now under way to turn the square into a "mixed-use scheme, attracting lifestyle and leisure interests".
And Mark Steinberg, co-founder of Marcol, said: "The deal is the first of what we hope to be several acquisitions in Northern Ireland and we are excited by the prospect of regenerating Lisburn Square".
"We see it as an opportunity to successfully enhance the scheme using our extensive knowledge and in-depth experience of other leading retail and mixed-use schemes across the UK.
"The location, adjacent to Bow Street, which hosts many popular high street retail names including Tesco, Boots, Cafe Nero and Superdrug, means footfall is already incredibly high in this area. Our aim is to ensure we complement this, creating a must-visit destination that will work cohesively with the existing retailer provision in the city."
The development includes several large tenants such as high street stalwarts Argos, Next and Subway, as well as pub chain JD Wetherspoon. It includes 29 retail units as well as a number of kiosks, residential premises and 210 underground parking spaces.
It was placed on the market by administrators BDO, after former owners Valto Ltd went under in 2013. The firm was owned by two of Northern Ireland's richest men, brothers Thomas and Francis Jennings. And developing the square to include restaurants and bars could help create an area similar to St Anne's in Belfast, according to Eamonn Murphy of Murphy Surveyors.
"It will be interesting to see what the plans are. It could end up being the next St Anne's Square," he said. "It has failed as a retail destination, whether that's due to a lack of interest or the economy.
"But it could be a leisure destination for the city - that's the market that is exciting at the moment. Aside from retail there could be restaurants, a health club, office and a small budget hotel. There is life in Lisburn.
"Ultimately, the collection of four or five new businesses could rejuvenate the area."
Andrew Coggins, director at commercial property firm CBRE, which was behind the sale, said the square "has the potential to evolve into a key retail destination for the population of Lisburn and the wider catchment".
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