Blackhall Place Regeneration Submission July 2021

Regeneration Project Office
Westmeath County Council
Aras an Chontae
Mullingar
Co. Westmeath
N91 FH4

By email: regen@westmeathcoco.ie

27th July 2021

Dear Westmeath County Council,

Re: Blackhall Place Regeneration

Background – Mullingar Chamber
Mullingar Chamber is the largest organised business representative group with over 155 members [individuals and companies] with over 1,500 staff employed in the town and municipal district. Our mission statement is to promote Mullingar as a place to live and work and to promote inward investment in the town and municipal district as well as the local daytime and night-time economy. We deliver these goals through ongoing management of key stakeholder relationships with our members, Westmeath County Council, the IDA, Enterprise Ireland as well as sitting on the Strategic Policy Committees of Westmeath County Council and the Local Community Development Committee. We also run the largest event in the midlands attracting over 100,000 visitors to Mullingar in the Christmas period to attend the Winterfest Skating on Ice event.

Mullingar Chamber & Blackhall Place Regeneration
Mullingar Chamber is fully supportive of Westmeath County Council seeking to regenerate Blackhall Place and feel this site and location offers the potential to become a new quarter of the town of Mullingar that would further reinvigorate the town centre.

In relation to the other key potential outcomes would like to outline the following positions:

1. Overall Scheme [40,000sq.m. / EUR120m] – From the information provided Mullingar Chamber estimates the overall scheme to be in the order of 40,000sq.m. and this should result in investment in the town in the order of EUR120m. To put this in context this is the equivalent of 500 or so residential units, if the entire was to be residential, which we accept and promote it not being entirely residential for all the obvious reasons.

2. Scheme Mix – Mullingar Chamber welcomes this potential scheme and are keen to see it proceed in due course with a logical mix of uses and eventual occupiers [proposed mix being 50% residential, 25% office, 20% multi storey parking and 5% retail]

3. Residential Element [50% / 20,000sq.m. / 250 Units / EUR60m] – Mullingar Chamber is of the view that c.50% of this scheme should be residential with a focus on smaller units and elderly living in the town centre in high quality accommodation. The reason for this is that we feel if 20,000sq.m. of the scheme
were residential this would result in c.250 residential units being delivered in this location in the centre of the town bringing a further 500/750 people into the town centre reinforcing it at its core.

We feel this should be delivered in two blocks of 10,000sq.m. over 4 floors of 2,500sq.m. per floor. We feel these should be stand-alone blocks with their own parking and as much parking as possible be naturally ventilated and not underground for construction and ongoing cost management purposes.

Furthermore, with a focus on elderly living and potentially smaller units, this provides accommodation options [rental/purchase depending] for people who might be keen to downsize in terms of their living accommodation
We estimate there are over 50 pensioners in Mullingar living alone in large homes who would consider this as a super location to live and would free up over 50 homes over time where they could accommodate 4/5 persons and currently only accommodate 1 person resulting in 80% inefficiency

Finally, we feel a well designed PRS or single home scheme here would sell well and underpin the logical viability of this scheme and make it deliverable [this element] without substantial grant aid.

4. Office Element [25% / 10,000sqm. / EUR30m] – Mullingar Chamber feels that a well-designed office block here in the order of 10,000sq.m. over 4 floors of 2,500sq.m. per floor would work well, add to the user mix, secure tenancies within 3-4 years and reinforce the commercial centre to the town.

We feel this should be a stand-alone block with its own parking and as much parking as possible be naturally ventilated and not underground for construction and ongoing cost management purposes.

Currently we are seeking to accommodate a 1,000sq.m. requirement in the town and once accommodated there will be no new office space available in Mullingar of 500sq.m.+. We would welcome the views of the IDA and EI on this and would welcome WCC working closely with them and MCC as this opportunity advances

5. Multi-Storey Parking [20% / 500 Spaces / 8,000sq.m. / EUR24m] – Mullingar Chamber would welcome the development of an 8,000sq.m. block of multi-storey parking in this scheme. We feel this should be a stand alone block of c.2,000sq.m. per floor over 4 floors and accommodate c.500 parking spaces and at a cost of EUR24m/EUR50k per space and should almost double the entire town centre parking capacity of Mullingar town centre. We understand the viability of this as per cost/value and income is c.50% of where it should be however this is where we think grant aid funding should be focused as this, as part of the wider scheme, totally reinforces the town centre of Mullingar.

We would caution the incoming reality of autonomous vehicles and request a view to be take on potential vehicle ownership and shared ownership models in 2030+ and the knock-on effect on demand for space of this kind then as part of this scheme

6. Retail [5% / 2,000sq.m. / EUR6m] – Mullingar Chamber would welcome a cautions approach to retail be adopted in delivering this scheme and, for many obvious reasons, would welcome c.5% of this scheme to be retail and 100% of that to be consumer convenience and leisure and hospitality. The reason we are cautious on this is owing to the ongoing proliferation of online retail and the need and demand for this location to be supported by high quality low volume cubature retail [grocery and leisure and hospitality]. We also feel this balance of 36,000sq.m. scheme is well served by the current retail offering of Mullingar town centre, one of the best town centres in Ireland

Summary – EUR120m Scheme
In summary, Mullingar Chamber feels this is another [after and in parallel with Columb Barracks] once in a hundred-year opportunity for Mullingar to reposition one of the best locations in Ireland and to reinvigorate our town centre with a logical mix of users and uses in a sensible manner. We feel this is now particularly important in a post-Covid world where regional development has seen an increased demand on the occupier side of the curve evidenced locally by a 20% increase in house prices in the last 24 months.

Next Steps – Engagement
We are reaching out to all our members seeking direct support in relation to the foregoing as set out and have received considerable support thus far.

We very much look forward to advancing with the next stages of this development.

Should you have any queries in the meantime please do not hesitate to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
John Geoghegan
_______________
John Geoghegan
President – Mullingar Chamber

This entry was posted in news. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.