THERE are six people for every square metre of shopping space in the Midlands compared to only three people for every square metre of shopping space in Dublin, according to research by the promoters of Athlone's newest development.
An Bord Pleanala's decision to give the go-ahead to John O'Sullivan's Gallico Developments for the 83,000 sq m (one million sq ft) shopping centre in Athlone has been closely monitored by national and international retailers with their sights set on the high disposable income of some 400,000 people living in this area.
"The research shows that the potential spend of the 400,000 living within 40 miles of the bridge of Athlone on items other than groceries is more than ?800m," according to agents Bannon Commercial.
Councillor Kevin 'Boxer' Moran, who was instrumental in the promotion of a centre for Athlone, said that "a development of this nature will put meat on the bones of the government's National Spatial Strategy," creating a major city by linking the towns of Athlone, Mullingar and Tullamore.
Councillor Moran also said that the ?135m development will result in a renewal of the traditional shopping streets in Athlone. When put side by side with the very successful Golden Island Shopping Centre and the new development at the old Athlone Shopping Centre, it will give the consumer a choice equal to any city in Europe, he said.
The massive eight-acre town centre site will provide a Grafton Street-type shopping experience in the Midlands with four major department stores and 50 shops linked by covered streets and a naturally ventilated covered plaza.
The mixed-use development by project architects Murray O'Laoire will centre around internal covered streets on two levels and a large naturally ventilated central plaza. The developers have masterminded an exceptionally designed purpose-built shopping facility cleverly integrated with a high-quality living quarter.
The scheme's car park is accessed directly within 800 metres of the motorway.