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Gateway to Galway

Published:  01 May, 2007

Galway is the fastest growing city in Ireland and its city centre is set to get one of the biggest projects ever put forward in Ireland.

The state owned transport company, CIE, and its railway subsidiary, Iarnrod Eireann (Irish Rail), are planning to develop the whole Ceannt railway station site and surrounding area in a project that's been costed at over E2bn. It will include 37,000 sq m of retail, but it could be at least five years before it's finished. When it's completed, in about four to five years time, it will be the second biggest enclosed shopping centre in Ireland, after the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin.

Michael Coyle, chief executive of the Galway Chamber of Commerce, is very confident that the retail space in the Ceannt Station development will be successful. "Galway is now the third largest city in the country and it continues to attract the major high street brands."

But as Cormac Kennedy, director of CBRE Retail in Dublin, says: "Retail performs very well in the city, but many large international retailers aren't yet represented in Galway".

Galway city has a population of close to 75,000, while for the whole county, it's about 230,000. Over the past five years, Co Galway's population has grown by 10 per cent.

Marie Hunt, director of research at CBRE in Dublin, says: "With Galway's huge catchment profile and tourist traffic, I'm very positive about any future retail development in Galway. Many large international retailers aren't yet represented in the city and I can envisage strong interest from retailers for any new opportunities that present themselves in Galway".

The Ceannt Station site is literally the last big space available in the centre of Galway for redevelopment, so the proposal is attracting a lot of interest. Raymond Rooney, a well-known Galway estate agent and auctioneer, says: "The demand for large retail areas in the city centre is substantial, from retailers, Irish and international, who want to expand to the West of Ireland. At present, large retail units or sites just aren't available." He notes that on the rare occasions when city centre sites are available, they command rents of between E900 and E1,000 per sq m.

Another big development opportunity coming up is for the existing Galway port area; the harbour authority has ambitious plans to develop a completely new port area, which would free up the existing harbour for much development.

City centre land may be scarce and valuable, but this hasn't stopped a plethora of other schemes going ahead, on the outskirts of the city.

The next big shopping centre to open in Galway will be Briarhill, being developed at a cost of E100m just off the old Dublin-Galway road. It will have 18 retail units, anchored by Dunnes Stores, with 6,970 sq m, and is due to open during the summer.

The former factory of Crown forklift trucks is set to be redeveloped as a E300m retail park, while the Galway suburb of Knocknacarragh is getting two new shopping centres. One is already being built while the other, a town centre development, is at the planning stage. Other existing shopping centres in Galway include the Westside shopping centre, on the western edges of the city; the Terryland shopping centre and the pivotal Eyre Square shopping centre, right in the heart of the city. The most ambitious redevelopment of an existing shopping centre is the E140m plan to bring a totally new look to the Galway shopping centre on the Headford Road, which is due to quadruple in size.

Moycullen is a fast growing village just 10 km west of Galway city; it's getting the Cearnog Nua retail and commercial centre, including about 5, 500 sq m of retail. Super Valu will be the anchor food store. Opening is scheduled for October.

Already, in the past couple of years, Galway has seen some headline retail developments. Marks & Spencer opened in the Corrib Centre in July, 2005 and another big international retailing name that's new to Galway is Tommy Hilfiger. Zara announced recently that it was opening up in the city centre.

Overall, concludes Raymond Rooney, "confidence in retailing in Galway has never been at a higher pitch". It bodes well for the Ceannt Station scheme, as well as for all the other retailing centres currently in the pipeline.