SHANNON Town Centre’s new owners have one year at the helm under their belt. This week, they speak to The Clare Echo about their plans for the future and outline the importance of aligning their growth with the implementation of the Shannon Masterplan which was published last year.
Shannon Town Centre is under the ownership of Urban Green, a private Cork company with a number of property interests nationwide and overseas. In recent years, they have been credited with successfully turning around the fortunes of Castletroy Shopping Centre in Limerick which had previously been struggling with low vacancy rates.
Shannon Town Centre’s General Manager Brian O’Leary has been in the role for eight months. He tells The Clare Echo, “When they purchased Castletroy there was a high vacancy rate, similar to Shannon. They looked at it as a 3-5 year project similar to what we’re looking at in Shannon. They’re now up to a 90 per cent occupancy rate and footfall has doubled since they took over, it’s a really vibrant centre and has good community ethos. It’s given that side of Limerick a hub and we’re looking to do something similar here.”
There are “up on 60 retailers” in the centre, says Brian, from anchor tenants like Dunnes, Lidl, Dealz, and Iceland, to a range of banks, and food & drinks retailers such as Insomnia Coffee and the Terrace. Brian admits attracting more tenants to the centre is high on the priority list. “Any prospective tenants who would have been previously put off by high rents or any other reasons, we’re interested in speaking to all those people and coming up with an arrangement that would be beneficial to everybody.”
In his role, Brian has overseen a number of cosmetic upgrades and says huge focus is put on “the improvement of the overall appearance of the shopping centre” while he believes the convenient location, free parking and easy accessibility makes Shannon Town Centre an attractive prospect for shoppers.
Behind the rebranding from Skycourt Shopping Centre to Shannon Town Centre is the group’s ethos to create a hub that will first-and-foremost provide the community with a living and shopping space. With this in mind, Brian points to the importance of the implementation of the Shannon Masterplan which will see the ‘One Shannon Hub’ developed adjacent to Shannon Town Centre, which is proposed to include a town hall, an arts venue, and Council offices.
Brian explains, “We’d expect to see progress on that from Clare County Council in the next 12-18 months which we think will have a massive knock-on effect for us here in the centre in establishing a hub around Shannon Town.
“We want to increase the number of tenants here on site, we want to increase the footfall in the Town Centre, but we also want to establish a community hub here in the middle of Shannon and give people of Shannon an actual identity. So this is your town centre, that it’s not just a case of ‘I’ll run in here and do my shopping’, it’s actually somewhere you want to go, spend a bit of time, it becomes more of an actual town centre rather than somewhere that’s just functional.”
He commends the weekly appearance of the Farmer’s Market every Thursday in the town square, and Shannon Town Centre are keen to capitalise on this “pleasant environment” by making the area “more of a community hub, where people come and grab a coffee, sit down for a chat, make it into that town centre where people will spend a bit of time”. They will celebrate the centre’s 50th anniversary this year and are planning to invite the entire community to a large summer event as part of the celebrations.
“Community focus is first aim, the people of Shannon have always said they want a better retail offering here within their own town. So first of all we want to get those people shopping within the town of Shannon. Then we want to reach out to the 10-12,000 people working in the industrial estate just across the road from us every day, ie the people who are commuting to Shannon. And then certainly other areas of Clare, we want to be an attractive space and destination shopping centre that they’ll come here rather than going to further afield and that they have everything they’re looking for under our roof.”