Derry buildings earmarked for scrapped Ebrington distillery project on sale
Four buildings intended for a new distillery in the redeveloped former military base at Ebrington in Londonderry have been put on the market.
The Executive Office, which inherited the buildings from the Ministry of Defence in 2003, has advertised the buildings for sale or long-term lease.
Last year The Quiet Man distillery announced that it would not be following through on its original multi-million pound investment proposal for the site.
And earlier this month it was confirmed to Derry City and Strabane District Council that the distillery plan was no longer being pursued.
The square, which is linked to the city centre by the Peace Bridge, was opened in 2011 and originally viewed as an opportunity for significant economic investment in the north west.
To date only five of the 21 buildings on the 26-acre site have been filled. There are plans for a new hotel, along with an 80,000 sq ft office block and a new museum.
Londonderry-based economic commentator Paul Gosling said progress has been too slow.
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"The problem is that there wasn't fast development at the very start, and it has become very difficult to recover from that," he added.
"Really you would have needed a 'big bang' right at the outset creating spin-offs. Without that having happened, everything else then is on a slow pedal.
"It was handed over from the MoD in 2003. It's now 2019 and it's just bizarre that we've had such slow progress.
"It just feels as if a whole load of bad decisions were taken over a long period of time."
The four units listed for sale this week by Lambert Smith and Hampton feature three listed buildings, including the Old Guard's House and Barrick Master's House.
They come with planning permission for a distillery and cafe, with the rest allocated for retail and office accommodation.
The Executive Office has confirmed that it will sell the buildings individually or as one lot. But it stressed that the proposed use for the buildings must be in line with the Ebrington Development Framework, which places limits on the amount of retail and office space at the site.
The occupants at Ebrington to date include the Walled City Brewery, Cafe Ollies, the Creative Hub and the Enterprise Hub.
Mr Gosling said attracting more retailers will be difficult due to the current level of footfall.
He said the site may continue to struggle until the new office block or hotel is completed, however both these projects look to be a number of years away from completion.
Draperstown-based construction company Heron Bros was given planning permission for a £10.7m 80,000 sq ft grade A office development earlier this year.
The Executive Office has awarded £3.5m in grant aid, with the hope that the project will act as a catalyst for attracting more foreign direct investment to the city by creating 640 jobs.
US insurance giant Allstate has also been linked with a move to Ebrington. The company employs around 800 people in the north west.
Ebrington Leisure Holdings was granted planning permission for a 152-bed hotel at the site last year. There is no official start date for the £15m project.
People familiar with the project indicate that the 18-month construction project could begin towards the end of 2019.
The company's directors include Liam Tourish, Cecil Doherty and Derek Keys, who owns Co Tyrone auction group Gardrum Holdings.