Wednesday 19 December 2018

The right moves: McParland brings the theatre of estate agency to his theatre of dreams

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Paul McNeive

Ross McParland, director and shareholder in the Sherry FitzGerald Group, is one of the best known names in the new homes business. He is also an astute reader of the property market, and has made a habit of being in the right place, at the right time. Market observers raised an eyebrow at his latest venture, the purchase of a mixed-use commercial scheme in Greystones, and the launch of 'The Whale Theatre'.

However, early signs are that McParland's Midas touch is once again producing the goods and I met McParland at the scheme, to chat about his secrets for success.

The development adjoins the Meridian Point shopping centre on Greystones' main thoroughfare and is a five storey, mixed-use scheme, including five shops, the theatre, and dance studios. The property was bought in 2014 from a receiver in what McParland believes was the first live online auction here, a '' auction handled by Lisney. McParland subsequently secured planning permission for three penthouse apartments, now under construction on the roof.

But it is the re-launch and running of the theatre into which McParland has thrown himself with a passion. Long known as an advocate of bringing the best quality into developments, and their marketing, that approach is evident here too.

And remarkably, McParland, with no experience whatsoever of the arts world and running a theatre, is finding that it is his experiences as an estate agent which are proving invaluable now.

McParland started out in the 1970s with Osborne King and Megran (now Savills) and was headhunted by Mark FitzGerald.

Indeed, he credits FitzGerald as the greatest influence on his career, and his thinking on what makes people tick. He then set up on his own in 1985, specialising in new homes, with offices in Bray, Lucan and Swords.

Innovatively, he presented the firm under the banner 'Exclusively marketed by Ross McParland' to demonstrate that they were providing an in-depth marketing service, and were more than just selling agents. The developers loved it and before long, the firm was handling schemes for many top builders, and notably Cosgraves.

Fourteen years later, Sherry FitzGerald came calling again and bought the firm, with McParland becoming Head of Sherry FitzGerald New Homes, a role now filled by his nephew, Ivan Gaine.

In 2010, with the pub business receding, McParland bought the Horse and Hound pub in Delgany, again from receivership, and carried out a €750,000 refurbishment of the pub and guest rooms.

McParland's customer service values shone through in his management's approach and the venue rapidly became a huge success and was sold last year for approximately €1.5m.

But back to the theatre. It has been lavishly refurbished in a nautical theme by interior designer Sharon Ryle, providing an intimate setting and patrons can avail of a drinks service to their tables. Meals are served at certain events. Externally, a giant whale catches the eye and there are murals incorporating various local people on the walls.

The venue hosts a variety of shows, from local drama groups, to Irish language nights, to international acts such as Rebecca Storm and the Hothouse Flowers.

McParland puts his success down to people skills, knowing what people want and providing a quality service. He knows he will have to work hard to attract bigger acts to the town, but McParland's touches are paying off here too. A limousine is available to transport artists, and the dressing rooms are top quality.

Later this year, visiting artists can stay in the rooftop penthouses, perhaps with their families, and enjoy sea views and a location opposite the uber-trendy Happy Pear.

McParland says that finding the artist is the equivalent of finding the site for a development - everything flows from that.

New homes marketing, he tells me, is all about getting 100 different things right, and running the theatre is the same. Finally, selling the tickets is the equivalent of finding your house buyers.

Jokingly, he points out the theatre lobby, where he put in display stands to promote upcoming shows, and afterwards realised that he had created a version of an estate agents showroom.

Having sold, or overseen the sale of 30,000 new homes in Ireland, McParland says that his dream now is to see 30,000 smiles emerging from the theatre.

As the audience cheered the Hothouse Flowers to another encore, I spotted Ross McParland, leaning against the back wall.

There was no bigger smile in the theatre than his.

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