Saturday 25 November 2017

€5m investment boost for New Ross

Hotel, nightclub, cafe and high-end apartments plan gathering momentum

The site being cleared on the North Quay
The site being cleared on the North Quay
Work under way at the North Quay

David Looby

A New Ross businessman is investing €5 million in the town to develop a hotel, air BnB apartments, a nightclub, a market and a retail unit on the quay.

Willie O'Leary of O'Leary International haulage company is in the process of opening 15 apartments at Doyle's Barn on North Quay. He plans to rent 33 apartments, including three penthouse apartments, at Kennedy Plaza by Christmas and has knocked a house, (the old Wickham building), in between both buildings to allow access to a courtyard area to the rear of both premises for access for delivery trucks and members of the public to an indoor market.

A food and craft market is planned, where five units can be rented for weekends, by week, month or year etc. There are two retail units underneath the 15 apartments, which Mr O'Leary said would be ideal for a restaurant and a butchers or other retail premises.

Mr O'Leary obtained planning permission to knock the building in December and plans non stop works over the coming months along the quay. 'It (the old Wickham building) was a dangerous structure and I couldn't rent out my apartments without access. The 33 apartments are 90 per cent finished. They will be ready to open this summer, and Doyle's Barn will open in March. I have 12 applicants who will be living there.'

Further up the quay, Mr O'Leary has his sights set on opening a nightclub upstairs in the Dunbrody Inn and opening the Riverside Hotel, which has been closed for around six years. 'Our plan is to open a 16 bedroom hotel which would be attached to the apartments, like the Talbot is attached to the Talbot Suites in Wexford town. The hotel will be beautiful and modern and will be called the Kennedy Plaza Hotel and will be a four star with a bar, where food will be served, and there will be a restaurant.'

Having bought Barrow Hall apartment block at Knockavilla, he opened it in November and has almost full occupancy, apart from a few rooms left for Air BnB customers and holidaymakers. 'We have the 32 apartments full and we could have filled double this number.'

The opening of the New Ross Bypass in 2019 has fired Mr O'Leary's investment in New Ross, which he described as a fantastic town, full of potential. 'The new bridge was key for me because the town will no longer be cut in two. Now New Ross can start pulling in people from Kilkenny, Carlow and surrounding areas. For too long the town has not been ready for the booms in the Irish economy and there is a 15 to 20 year boom happening now. We need the people of New Ross to get behind this as everyone will benefit - from people living in the country areas to the townspeople. You can never underestimate the power of growth and I fully believe the power of growth will lift this town. When the new bridge opens New Ross will be back to the old New Ross again for the first time in 50 years.'

He said O'Hanrahan Bridge was the one thing that put people off coming into town, especially from the Rosbercon side 'as you could be 15 minutes in a taxi each way getting into Ross'.

'Having a vibrant quayfront will regenerate the town. People will come over and have a drink and a bite to eat, but there also has to be a disco in New Ross, just as there are discos in Waterford, Wexford and every town in the country. At the moment hundreds of teenagers and youths are leaving the town by bus for these places every weekend for the nightlife elsewhere. The powers that be need to allow a proper level of nightlife back into the town.'

Mr O'Leary bought Prendergasts pub on the quay in 2013 and has also bought four large units beside Tesco on the ring road.

He plans to have the hotel and the nightclub open within one year, adding that once some legal paperwork is concluded on the hotel site, he will begin refurbishing the building, He aims to use the coalyard beside the L&N carpark for 15 parking spaces and a coffee shop, adding that this area would provide a back entrance to the nightclub. 'If you have a nightclub you can make New Ross a place where people would want to go. We need restaurants, bars and hotels in the town centre.'

He plans to use his experience of running Hookless Village holiday complex, to make a success of his apartment complexes in New Ross. 'We rented out all 72 houses from the beginning of June until the end of September in 2016 and with Air BnB we will rent out some of the apartments in New Ross town centre also. People will use the hotel to check in and then stay in the apartments.'

Mr O'Leary plans to charge €15 to enter his nightclub, for which customers will get four drinks to get the right clientele in. He said the combined effect of having more venues, more restaurants and more accommodation in the town centre will have a transformative effect on New Ross. The tourism potential of the town has also propelled Mr O'Leary forward with his plans and he believes that the quay area needs to be more pedestrian friendly once the bypass opens, while a tour bus should be introduced stopping at historic areas around the town.

'The traders should pay for that. It would ensure people can move around the town easily. We have bus loads of people coming in to visit the Dunbrody ship but there's nothing for them. We will have a hotel for them to stay in and apartments. People who visit, be it for a day, a night or a week, will have places to go in the town and entertainment and a good nightlife. Why not make New Ross the nightlife capital of the county? New Ross is a fantastic town which has so much that other towns don't have. It is also at the pinnacle of the Hook Peninsula, which is a fantastic area,' the Ramsgrange man, who is currently building houses in Wexford town, said. He said New Ross is the transport company capital of Ireland with more than one thousands drivers employed in the locality, and yet the bars are empty some nights. Having bought several buildings at relatively cheap prices during the recession, Mr O'Leary is only one of a number of developers investing in the town.

'People have started investing in New Ross as the cost of property has come down to a level where you can buy, rent and then make a profit. By the time these buildings are finished I'll have invested €5m. Today you need to have your properties up to an international standard that tourists expect. We had someone book one of our apartments on last week, but I don't know where they ate. People are going outside the town to spend their money.'

He said he will offer the 'market units' to the rear of Doyle's Barn for a nominal fee, adding that planning permission is being sought for retail use of the units in the coming weeks. 'We are bricking the pedestrian paving front and back and finishing work around the building. We will actively speak with people who have good ideas for the units.'

Mr O'Leary can be contacted at 051 441130.

New Ross Standard

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