THE future of Dundrum Town Centre, which is Ireland’s biggest retail complex, is now at stake as speculation mounts about a possible sale of the estimated €1bn centre.
This follows NAMA’s acquisition of the remaining 30% debt to the State body, giving it total control of the town centre.
It is understood that NAMA paid full face value for the loans from two banks, although no figures have been released. The agency acquired a 16% holding from Ulster Bank, and 14% from KBC Bank Ireland.
The loans NAMA secured last week related to Joe O’Reilly’s Castlethorn Construction and Chartered Land. With an estimated €2.8bn-worth of NAMA loans, O’Reilly is believed to be the State agency’s largest debtor, at present.
Dundrum Town Centre, which measures 1.25m square feet, opened in 2005 and has more than 150 retailers. Revenues from annual combined sales are more than €600m, with annual footfall of 19 million customers.
Cllr Gerry Horkan (FF) said: “It would be better for the State to profit from its success rather than private financiers. I would hope and expect that regardless of ownership, all existing agreements with tenants would be honoured by whoever controls the centre.”
South Dublin Deputy Olivia Mitchell (FG) said: “Dundrum Town Centre is a performing loan and it is in NAMA’s interest, the taxpayers’ interest and any future owners’ interest that it remain that way.
“So, I cannot see the change in loan ownership having any implications for tenants.”
However, Aileen Eglinton, local election Fine Gael candidate for Glencullen, said: “The council has to keep an eye on what NAMA is doing. Dundrum Town Centre is not a local shopping centre any more – it’s a national one. People come from far and wide to shop there.”
Pat Kinsley, chairperson of the board of the Mill Theatre in Dundrum Town Centre, said: “It is obvious that any of the big decisions that are made about the future of the Dundrum Town Centre are out of the Mill Theatre’s control.
‘Business as usual’
“It would be our hope that with NAMA now in situ, we can progressively move forward. From the Mill Theatre’s point of view, it is community business as usual. The show will go on.”
Cllr Jim O’Dea (FG) said: “This could be seen as a bonus in that NAMA – or, if they sell it, the future owner – will put further investment into the centre and might even go ahead and build phase two of the town centre, incorporating much of the old Dundrum Shopping Centre.
“This would create many jobs in the area during the construction process and, obviously, when constructed, there would be further employment opportunities.
“NAMA, or a future owner, will have to assure the current tenants in the centre that their current leases will be honoured, and that no attempt will be made to raise rents or introduce extra costs of any form,” he said.
A spokesperson for NAMA told The Gazette that the agency is making no comment on any of the latest reports made in relation to Dundrum Town Centre.
A spokesperson for Chartered Lands also said they would not be commenting on the latest developments.
Neither Ulster Bank nor KBC Bank, from whom the loans were acquired by NAMA, would comment on their sale.