Tuesday, 25th April 2017
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The good news, gossip and social media diatribe about the significant €300 million property investment, by the Al Hokair group from Saudi Arabia, started to trickle through various media channels early last week. By Tuesday morning the local and some national media sources (not unsurprisingly in limited column inches!) sources began reporting about this

“Game changer” for Waterford City, County and the wider South East region.

Behind the heavily fortified closed doors of City Hall, our 32 Councillors were given first sight of this far eastern promise, by the Council CEO Michael Walsh. Refreshment must have been provided for this late evening session, which had all the potential to drive the City out of Division One and straight back into the Premier League. No need for any more relegation battles. Surely this €300 million, in one fell swoop, would regain our position as the fourth City of Ireland?

Our 32 Councillors unanimously passed a motion, allowing the CEO to engage further with the Al Hokair group, on behalf of the City and County.

As an aside, I read one or two funny remarks on social media, asking if “All” the Councillors had backed the plan, after many a post stating the word “Unanimously”! There were also some very strange comments, completely off topic and you often have to wonder if people are actually reading the same posts?

The devil is always in the detail, with any contractual negotiation. I have no doubt that the shrewd, wealthy business people of Saudi have ALL their ducks lined up and know that a proposal, for a multi-million Euro investment into Waterford City, would be grasped with both hands and feet, for that matter. This is one gift horse, whose teeth do not have to be inspected, or do they?

Waterford City has to be seen as a prime location for investment for all manner of reasons. The main one being, that the price of land and property is just so much cheaper than any other City. Just look at RTE selling circa 9 acres of land, in D4, with a guide price of €75 million. The likely outcome is that these few golden acres will realise much, much more than the €75 million guide, as property prices are once again ballooning in all corners of the Capital (let’s hope we don’t see another prick bursting said balloon!). The North Quays and Michael Street are a mere fraction of this price, so why would you look elsewhere?

In addition to the cost of land being very “cheap” in Waterford, the relatively low cost of housing also reflects the current economic climate. Yes, we do get so much more for our money down here on the South East coast and this has to be a significant attractor, when tempting the likes of 1,221,887,632 Saudi Riyals to Waterford.

Let’s face facts. Property developers invest in projects to make substantial sums of money and Al Hokair will be investing in Waterford, because they see a future return on their million Euro investment. The potential has always been there. It is just that we have not been able to persuade someone to speculate to this level before in Waterford.

What is for sure, is that this investment will make others aware that Waterford and the wider South East region have REAL potential.

As Dublin smothers in increasing housing and rental costs, regions such as Waterford, must be an attractive alternative option. Appropriate infrastructural investment, by Government, needs to be accelerated. It was great to see Minister Coveney, down here pedalling his bike on the Greenway. However, he needs to guarantee and deliver money for this City, to ensure that we are a viable alternative to Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway. Governments’ record on this is not great for Waterford, so we will need to keep the pressure on, to make sure they finally deliver.

“Selling sand to the Arabs”, was a phrase often trumpeted to me when I worked at Wembley Arena. The venue was the MUST play indoor arena for any musical act.

Wouldn’t it be great if in the next few years Waterford became such an easy sell?

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