County Down based Maghera Developments specialises in high-end restorations, pioneering and modular healthcare / education buildings and private developments. We met up with founder / MD Eugene Walker to get an insight into this exceptional, cutting-edge operation.
Maghera Developments Ltd. has been providing excellent solutions to a host of clients in the restoration, commercial, education, leisure, healthcare and residential sectors for 15 years. Reflecting on the genesis of the operation, founder / proprietor Eugene Walker notes: “I set the business up as a limited company in 2000 but have been trading for 33 years.
“I started out as a tradesman myself with the ambition: 1. to be a commercial contractor; 2. to break into private development; and 3. I always had a notion of working on high-end restorations of churches and listed buildings etc.”
With Maghera Developments, Eugene has fulfilled all three of these ambitions plus a whole lot more besides. The yearning to work on painstaking and potentially treacherous restoration jobs is quite rare. It would be much easier just to throw up a few standard buildings, with undoubtedly a bigger profit margin … so what prompted Eugene to go down such an unworn avenue?
“I think it comes from the fact that I’m a joiner myself and worked on Grade A listed buildings when serving my time,” he muses. “I could see that it was very interesting work. To me, Grade A and Grade B listed buildings are intriguing. Working on them is something that has always appealed to me.”
Eighteen months ago, Maghera Developments restored Annalong Cornmill to its former beauty for Mourne Heritage. “Consarc, who are the leading conservation architects in Ireland, were the architects on that project and it was very particular and intriguing work, considering the nature of the conditions,” Eugene reflects.
“We then moved on to Massforth Chapel outside Kilkeel for the Very Reverend Fr Murray and Liam Milling Architects (Brian Jennings, QS). We did an external refurbishment of the existing cast iron guttering and downspouts, refurb of the existing stone parapets, plus complete re-roofing using existing, locally-sourced Bangor Blue Slates, which matched the existing colour perfectly.
“This was a very tricky, meticulous job, with all the hazards of working close to graves. Between the high scaffolding and the graves, it was a difficult job but we managed to deliver it on time and to budget,” the Down man states proudly.
Many contractors would shy away from this kind of work – is it not more trouble than it’s worth? “It’s true that there are elements to this type of specialised work that general construction doesn’t like, but we enjoy the challenge,” Eugene continues. “It can be frustrating but it’s very rewarding, For example, when we were doing Massforth Chapel, the downspouts had to be replicated to exact detail. We had to have those specially made in a foundry in the UK and that took 13 weeks, which can obviously affect cash flow and frustrate the end user, but it’s a great feeling to see the whole thing come together. There is a fear of it in the trade but if you are focussed and have a genuine interest in it, then no job should get the better of you.”
As restoration work is by its very nature volatile and unpredictable, Eugene has made sure not to have all his eggs in one basket. There are three other elements to the overall business, namely: pioneering, specialist healthcare work; modular buildings (for education and healthcare); and exclusive private developments.
“Commercial general construction is vibrant at the moment and we are currently undertaking a unique privately-owned healthcare facility in Hillsborough, County Down for Orthoderm, which will be the first of its kind to incorporate a blood lab, MRI, X-ray and specialised bone structure work for athletes and footballers etc. The facility is located at the centre of the town and will cater for all our GAA players and sports people. It’s due to be finished by the end of November and trading before Christmas. We’re working with Alliance Medical, Ortoderm and Randox Blood on this project and it’s our first breakthrough into healthcare construction. I’m delighted to be associated with it and, from a commercial point of view, we’d hope to be involved in more similar projects in the future.”
Maghera Developments also specialise in modular buildings for education and healthcare use. They have – in conjunction with MWL Consulting Engineers – developed a unique modular building / portal frame which enables them to build and transport classrooms to locations throughout the island of Ireland. “We are on the framework for supplying these and see this as a potential growth area in the coming years, both for education and healthcare,” says Eugene. “Our customer base includes the Education Authority, the healthcare sector, SureStart and local authorities for pavilion buildings and changing facilities within sport.”
That brings us to the private development side of the company, which is certainly no afterthought but an outstanding, standalone business in its own right. At the time of writing, Maghera Developments were commencing work on a magnificent development of top-end period houses in the grounds of the old Annesley Estate. This is going to be one of the finest and most sought-after developments along the east coast in the coming years.
“We’re very excited about the future of this development, which is located in a woodland setting right in the middle of Newcastle. Wilson Estate Agents will be looking after that for us.”
While it is his own vision, energy and enthusiasm that drives Maghera Developments, Eugene says he’d be lost without his staff, who consistently achieve the highest standards in everything they do and thereby ensure that the company maintains its status at the forefront of the industry.
“We’d carry 35 staff on a regular basis and they are all great workers,” he concludes. “At our head office here in Castlewellan, we are supported by an in-house team of Frances Paul (office manager), Liam McVeigh (bid manager), Adrian McLoughlin (buyer) and Gerard Kane (QS). The staff are a big part of the business and I couldn’t ask for any more from them.”
Maghera Developments Ltd.,
21 Lower Square,
Tel: 028 43778722
Taken from Building Ireland magazine Vol 1 No 2, Winter 2015