THE Waterford News & Star broke news of a proposed €500m development of the North Quays in March, 2017 and we’ve been biting at the heels of the story ever since. This is the job of a local paper at the centre of what was the biggest announcement in Waterford since the time of the Vikings. Many people couldn’t believe that such positivity was on the horizon and the mantra of the time was, “I’ll believe it when I see it”.
When history books get their chance to tell the North Quays story we might finally discover why it took so long to happen… if it even happens at all. This October – ironically when Michael Walsh goes seeking new developers – it will be five years since they first sat down with Fawaz Alhokair, the group that would eventually set up an Irish company called Falcon Real Estate Development.
‘When the time came, Alhokair handed over money, and bills were paid (seemingly to the tune of about €4 million), so you could never say that once upon a time they weren’t serious players at the table’
There is no doubt that Michael Walsh and his council team thoroughly researched and assessed the project and the participants, backing this up with the appropriate due diligence.
Alhokair and Falcon were scrutinised. Meetings were held and hands were shaken. When the time came, Alhokair handed over money, and bills were paid (seemingly to the tune of about €4 million), so you could never say that once upon a time they weren’t serious players at the table and committed to the project.
However, as our reporter Darren Skelton points out in his View from the Blue this week, they went from investors to promoters, to backers, and, meanwhile, the people of Waterford had nothing left to be but cynical.
This is a time for pragmatism. There is not value in looking back and asking, “what if?” What’s done is done. Maybe Falcon wasted everyone’s time, or maybe they simply ran out of it when the circumstances conspired against them. Whatever the reason for them failing once again to sign contracts with Waterford City & County Council, we need to remember that Waterford still has a piece of prime real estate on its hands, and over €100m of Government funding to make sure it’s properly accessible. It remains a Strategic Development Zone and in the greater scheme of things, it’s still one hell of an opportunity for the right developer. Whomever they may be.
Meanwhile, in a week where retail has reopened in Waterford and across the State, we are encouraging readers to support local retail and to shop local, while maintaining the physical distancing restrictions, which we will be living with for some time yet. This week represents another welcome step towards normalcy and we can only hope that the doors of all businesses – including hospitality in due course – will remain open to customers once this health crisis has finally abated.
Editorial, first published in May 18th edition of the Waterford News & Star