Limerick2020 sponsor Clancourt Group, which owns and operates the Crescent Shopping Centre, Limerick, was founded by Kevin Kenny’s father Charlie Kenny. Kevin tells us about the family business, the history of the Crescent Shopping Centre and their commitment to the development of Limerick City.
Tell us about your background in business and Clancourt Group?
I trained as a Chartered Accountant in KPMG when I left college. After nearly a year’s work experience in a real estate lending bank called EuroHypo in London, I returned to work in our family owned business Clancourt Group. I initially worked in the Property Management side of the business while learning the ropes on the development side of the business. So, after 14 years here with Clancourt, I have a blend of financial, banking and hands-on development background, and I lead much of the development and asset management work with the Senior Management Team. We work closely as a group and deliver projects together.
What are the central aims and ethos of Clancourt Group? What is the first thing you look for when investing in a property?
Generally, we like to invest in “Best in Class Properties” – as a developer we are looking at sites where we can deliver the best quality product. We are a commercial developer focusing on office and retail space. We do not operate in the residential market. We are long term investors, focussed on quality, specification and location. We want to provide properties that our clients and customers will always have a demand for, even in difficult economic times, and with its playground and state of the art facilities we think that the Crescent has been an important community outlet even during the recent downturn.
Tell us the story of The Crescent Shopping Centre development and upgrade, what have been the keys to its success?
Clancourt have owned and developed the Crescent Shopping Centre since day one. My father, Charlie, was the original developer of the Shopping Centre which opened in 1973. The Crescent was developed in harsh economic times at the beginning of the oil crisis. It was actually designed in the shape of St. Brigid’s Cross with four malls connecting into a central concourse which is still there today. Not all the anchors were there as they are now; close to opening, one pulled out but Charlie managed to replace them in time for opening. Shaws were there initially and later what is now the Penneys unit was constructed. In the late 1990s a 12-Screen Omniplex Cinema was opened. This was followed by the development of County Hall on the site. Then in 2002 the extension of the Garryowen Mall, Phase one, opened. This allowed us attract more fashion retailers as well as a mix of other retailers over a period of time. Then came Phases two and three: The malls were improved and we provided glass barrelled roof lights providing natural daylight to this extended mall, an underground car park, and a seven-unit extension of the Garryowen Mall, opened in 2006. This extension provided units for Next, Zara, H&M, River Island to name a few and also increased the quantum of underground car parking available to customers. In 2014, a large state of the art community-based playground was opened in the shopping centre.
In 2016, we received planning permission for a major investment in refurbishing Phase one – the now 43-year old part of the shopping centre. We want to change the dynamic of the centre to have the older part of the centre look and feel as attractive to customers and occupiers as perhaps the newer part does. The customer is at the heart of everything we do to provide best in class occupiers and retailers within the scheme.
How do you see the future development of Limerick retail business, what direction is it currently heading?
I think the future of Limerick retail is very positive. We in Clancourt are very committed to Limerick and Limerick retail. The City and County Council have some very good ideas for a long-term strategy and are working towards that. A number of initiatives have been put in place in the City that are very useful. The Council also take a holistic view on the entire Limerick retail landscape, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of the Mid-West region. A critical mass is required in Limerick City centre and unified thinking by both retailers and the council can help draw customers and ensure that they have the best overall experience in retailing in what is a great city with much opportunity and history.
Tell us about the decision to become involved with Limerick2020 – How important do you think it is for a city to have a strong cultural identity?
Really our involvement with Limerick 2020 is a follow on from our decision to get involved in the Limerick National City of Culture 2014. This was such a huge success that it was a no brainer for us to continue to support the good work that Mike and Sheila and all in Limerick are doing.
With the Crescent playing an integral part in the development of Limerick over the years we felt that we in the private sector needed to come out and support Limerick 2020, to demonstrate the potential benefits for Limerick and provide some financial and moral support. It is critical for any city and area to have a cultural identity – it brings all aspects of a society together as we saw in 2014, culminating with Granny’s tour of the city.
It was a unifying force under the Limerick banner for many aspects of society to partake in and enjoy with the rest of their community. Limerick 2020 is only going to be bigger, better and stronger and a great opportunity for Limerick to set its mark on an international stage with a strong cultural identity.
What impact do you think Limerick2020 would have on Limerick commercial property development and retail?
By highlighting Limerick’s strong cultural and community identity, Limerick 2020 is certain to attract interest from domestic and international retailers and commercial property developers as the city and county continues to recover. The Limerick 2030 strategy from the City and County Council provides a road map for this and the profile that Limerick 2020 will bring can form a key element of this. Overall, Limerick 2020 is a great opportunity to showcase the best of Limerick and its wonderful community, people and atmosphere.
Who are your biggest business inspirations and why?
Looking at it from a family business that is going as long as ours, which was founded by my father, I would have to say he is a business inspiration of mine. Achieving as much as he did over the years, surviving many recessions, having foresight that others did not have including the concept of the Crescent Shopping Centre and developing it at a time perhaps when others would have failed with the economic conditions. We admire his hard work, his attributes of honesty, integrity and hard work which he ingrained on my and my colleagues. He also ensured that the ethos of the business went beyond simply making money to knowing that we have a role to play in society; hence our role in supporting charitable endeavours, and social and cultural activities across the country are in no small part attributable to him.
Do you have a business mantra? What keeps you moving forward?
I have no particular personal business mantra. At Clancourt, our philosophy can be simply summarised as always seeking to improve what we have by working hard in an open an honest manner to achieve results for the longer term. We take a long term view of our projects and as demonstrated in our continued development of the Crescent Shopping Centre, we work closely with local community and officials to ensure a mutually beneficial outcome. Like all things that are worthwhile, it takes a lot of hard work, long hours and dedication and a good team of people working with you to achieve what we are happy with. I am very much driven now by the concept of working hard to provide for my family, as my father did for us.
Article by: Kayleigh Ziolo
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