FAST-GROWING property firm Macdonald Estates has been chosen to carry out the £34m regeneration of Stenhousemuir town centre.
The Edinburgh company beat off competition from four other developers to land the contract, which will see it develop around 60% of the 1960s town centre in a joint partnership with Falkirk Council.
Under the proposals, Macdonald will buy or lease the land from the council and build a mixed-use residential, retail, leisure and civic development, with the scheme expected to be completed in 2006.
The company’s chief executive, Dan Macdonald, said the development would transform the town centre and would be carried out at no cost to Falkirk Council. "We are let down in Scotland by some unattractive and unviable town centres which deter many people wishing to move," he said.
"With the residential property market in full throttle, there will be increasing pressure placed on these towns to provide the services and facilities required. In the case of Stenhousemuir, the council has sought ways in which to improve this town centre and the results will show a vibrant and modern town."
This week, Macdonald Estates is expected to report better-than-expected figures for the year to July 2002, with revenues predicted to come in at over 12m and profits rising to well over 1m.
The Stenhousemuir development should help boost revenues further. The first phase of the project will start in January with the temporary relocation of the town’s library to a new building.
Any land that is not council-owned - around 30% of the total - will be acquired by the company. From there, a 40,000sq ft anchor shopping store will be developed and a new road and car park linking the development to the main Falkirk road constructed. The third phase will see the relocation of residents out of flats in the town centre and the subsequent development of around 50 council flats.
A new town square will be built, as well as a library, council offices and more retail units. The fourth and final stage will see a 20,000sq ft health centre built.
Macdonald said: "It will be a place where people should find it very comfortable to live and work and it will put the heart back into the town centre."
Macdonald Estates first noticed the potential for developing Stenhousemuir centre around four years ago. Falkirk Council is also working on plans to develop Bo’ness, Denny and Grangemouth.
Initially, eight developers were approached over the council’s plans for Stenhousemuir. They were whittled down to four, then two and Macdonald Estates was named preferred partner last week.
The company is undertaking a similar scheme in Coatbridge town centre, where the firm is redeveloping and doubling the size of the retail park.
Macdonald said it was the firm’s track record that had swung the pendulum in his favour in its latest venture.
He said: "We were chosen because of our partnership record. There’s a trend towards working with councils. We have got quite a few references from other councils which is handy."
Macdonald Estates, which was formed in 1998, has developed a reputation as a niche developer of shopping centres - many of which are on edge or out-of-town sites - and health clubs.
Macdonald said the firm was now looking more towards town centres as the number of opportunities for edge-of-town schemes decreases.
He said: "There’s a trend of developing edge-of-town or out-of-town sites, but we are turning towards the town centres because there are opportunities and there are lots of them scattered around Scotland.
"It hasn’t previously been the trend. In the past developers have concentrated on out-of-town sites. Developing a greenfield site is quicker and more lucrative."
Not content with developments in Scotland, Macdonald is eyeing the Republic of Ireland as an untapped source of work, as well as south of the Border. It has recently opened an office in Glasgow and is looking to establish a presence in London.
Macdonald said there were still opportunities for growth in the retail sector, particularly in Ireland, although the property market as a whole was slowing.
He said: "We are not slowing down, but there may be signs that the market is slowing. I’m glad that we don’t exist by doing office developments."
After the Stenhousemuir project is complete, Macdonald said the company might retain a stake in the scheme or might sell. He said: "I would like to think that we would retain some or all of it. But there’s always the opportunity to sell part or all of it."
The company’s current and planned projects are: A retail park in Limerick, valued at 39m, Stenhousemuir town centre, valued at 34m and a retail park at East Kilbride, valued at 21m.
Another retail park at Coatbridge is valued at 20m and a retail and residential development in Airdrie is worth 18m. A foodstore development in Carlisle is valued at 15m and another in Rutherglen at 15m. A leisure, hotel and restaurant site at Hillington is worth 10m, a leisure development in Glasgow 7.4m and a retail park at Arbroath at 6m.
Just south of the Border at Berwick on Tweed, a retail unit is valued at 5m and a retail and leisure unit at Coatbridge is worth 4.5m.
Finally, an office development in Livingston is valued at 3.5m, a retail park in Fort William at 3.2m and a health club in Kidderminster at 2m.
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