Sq.Magazine interviews our Director of Retail, Jack Martin and asks about the extension plans for The Square Tallaght.
The Square has been given the go-ahead for a €40m extension of the centre potentially bringing 300 construction jobs during development, with the potential for up to 400 jobs in the retailers that will occupy the new space. We sat with Jack to get the answers to the questions you have all been asking including…Penneys?
When does work begin?
This has been a huge undertaking and a massive amount of work has gone into getting the plan to this stage. Thankfully, we have had great support from both SDCC and from Indego, the Centres biggest landlord. A large hurdle was getting the plans approved by An Bord Plaenola and now that this has happened, we can get on with the project plan. As with any extension of this size, funding is key and we are in the process of securing all of the relevant requirements. That can’t happen before the planning, so it’s almost like a stage process.
Now planning has been approved, the project team can start working on how exactly to get it done. Next step is the building and operational plans will be created and the contractors will need to be engaged. My expectation is if there are no hurdles, we could be turning soil in 2015 and open in 2017. The reason I say 2017 is there are two Christmases that have to happen during this time and it is vital that we make sure this development happens without disrupting the trade and its business as usual for the retailers.
Where exactly will the extension work take place?
There are two distinct phases. The most important one for us is the development of the north car park at the Tesco entrance and this will be phase 1. The centre will be extended out to the Luas line on both sides of the car park walkway. On one side you will have a two floor department store and four single height units on the other side you will have a multi story car park on all levels and eight double height units. You will be able to get off the Luas and walk straight into the Centre.
It adds an extra 250,000new feet to the Centre and takes up the entire north car park. The car park has an additional 800 spaces on four levels. Phase 2 involves the development of the South roof car park extending it into Level 3 of the current centre. This would create a large retail space that we could use for a combined food-court or more shops/leisure facilities.
This has been in the pipeline for sometime, what was the reason for the delay?
Well first of all what has to happen is the whole project plan has to be drawn up and feasibility studies have to be done on traffic flows and environmental impacts. Then a costing analysis had to be done to make sure the financials actually stacked up to make it happen. There was a lot of work done with the local council on whether or not that feasibility could work from a traffic point of view. There was also some land issues to resolve. So that initial planning has taken a number of years. When we put the planning into An Bord Plaenola, one of our retailers objected which did slow the process up but we are now back on track.
The Square Facebook page has been inundated with requests from the public in regard to what stores they would like? Have you been taking that onboard?
One of the first questions I was asked when I came in here two and a half years ago was ‘when is Penney’s coming?’. I would absolutely love to have a Penney’s here and I think it is fantastic brand that would be very successful in The Square. Although I can say that I would love it here, its not that simple and a lot needs to happen to secure a Penney’s here. One of those has to be that Penneys want to come here and can make it work, but I think there is a definite desire from the local community and from the Centre to have them as the anchor tenant. I am also conscious about “over promising and under delivering” and I don’t want to set false hopes before we have confirmed with them. Rest assured however, that we will be doing everything in our power in the background to make “Penneys Tallaght” a reality.
What about other stores?
There are many other possible anchor tenants that we would love to bring such as Next, Topshop, Zara and all of the big fashion brands. TK Maxx is another one that I think their model would sit really well here. So all of those companies will be factored in and all those discussions will be had. We will be trying to get as many of them as possible into the Centre because that is what we see as our biggest opportunity is the whole fashion mix. On the back of fashion you can build a thriving shopping experience.
When work does begin will the shopping centre still be fully accessible?
This is hugely important and its part of the whole planning piece that I talked about regarding traffic flow, when I say traffic flow it’s not just about cars and the outside roads it’s actually about pedestrian traffic. So for instance I am conscience of the fact that there is going to be car parking spaces that will have to come out as part of the north development but then we will be investing money and updating and renewing our multi story car park and also there has been a lot of work done on our facilities and the car parking as it currently sits. The whole idea is to put a full traffic flow system in place that allows the customer confidently to come here during the development, park their car and get access to the centre, do their shopping as normal and then leave. There will be some disruption but my whole focus throughout this entire project will be to minimise that disruption as much as possible.
Will there be any changes made to the exterior of the existing building?
One of the key things I am going to make sure of is that we don’t create an old and a new mall. So for instance, a lot of the finishes internally and externally will be brought in line with our current building, there is a lot of work we have been doing over the last two years and will continue to do throughout the development phase. Even before the development kicks off we will continue to improve the facilities in here, for instance we have embarked on a redevelopment program for the toilet facilities, mother and baby changing facilities, the disabled facilities and that will be a significant step change for us and I will continue invest in those areas. This is going to be a challenging but also a fantastic time for the Centre and for Tallaght. Bringing the Square back to a major shopping destination will bring jobs and prosperity to Tallaght and I am looking forward to seeing this through.