Facebook likes Grand Canal Square offices

Social network in negotiations to rent large office block of 11,148sq m (120,000sq ft)

4 Grand Canal Square: Facebook in negotiations. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

4 Grand Canal Square: Facebook in negotiations. Photograph: David Sleator/The Irish Times

Wed, Mar 27, 2013, 06:00

Facebook appears to be on the verge of a major expansion of its European headquarters in Dublin following reports that it is in negotiations to rent a substantially larger office block than the one it occupies in the south docklands.

And in another boost for Ireland’s technology industry, Yahoo! has launched a search for 6,038sq m (65,000sq ft) of office space either in the docklands or in the city centre. It is currently based in East Point Business Park in the docklands. The company recently announced plans to create a further 200 jobs over the next 12 months. It has the option of moving to a larger office block in East Point or renting a number of vacant buildings in the docklands.

Facebook has apparently targeted No 4 Grand Canal Square, a high quality building beside the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, which has a floor area of around 11,148sq m (120,000sq ft).

The adjoining block, No 5, has a similar volume of space available. Either building would be expected to attract a rent of around €322 per sq m (€30 per sq ft).

The company has not so far informed owners Ellier Developments of its intention to vacate its offices at Hanover Reach where it is renting 6,038sq m (65,000 sq ft). The leases are not due to run out until the middle of 2014.

Should Facebook decide to relocate sooner there should be little difficulty in finding a replacement tenant because of the desirable location and the high standard of the building.

Estate agents advising Facebook and others handling lettings on Grand Canal Square have refused to comment on the social network’s future plans.

However, last month the company announced that it would be creating another 100 positions at its European HQ, bringing the numbers employed at the Dublin base to 500.

One of the reasons for the expansion is the availability of international technical talent in Ireland. Gareth Lambe, acting head of office for Facebook Ireland, said the additional jobs also reflected growth in markets across Europe, the Middle East and Africa and meant they would not only be recruiting from the local economy but supporting local business “by increasing our footprint”.

Facebook has been in Ireland since 2009. Its Irish-based staff are involved in a broad range of functions from user operations, policy and safety to advertising and sales. The Irish office is responsible for users of the site outside the US.

Though widely acknowledged as among the very best office accommodation in the city, Grand Canal Square – developed by Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land and currently under the watch of Nama – has remained largely unoccupied since the property market took a nosedive.

During the boom leading solicitors William Fry were to have relocated to around 11,148sq m (120,000sq ft) at Number 4, leaving Chartered Land with the responsibility for Fry’s existing lease of Fitzwilton House at Wilton Place next to the Grand Canal.

Fitzwilton is owned by the Irish Property Unit Trust and has another nine years to run on the €3 million a year lease. For one reason or another, William Fry did not make the move to the docks.

Another legal firm Byrne Wallace, closely associated with many of the main property developers, did relocate from Harcourt Street to 2 Grand Canal Square in 2011 but after a little more than a year opted to return to its original offices in Harcourt Street.

There were unconfirmed reports this week that William Fry has been looking again at the former Byrne Wallace offices which extend to 7,806sq m (84,031sq ft) and are fitted out to an exceptionally high standard.

In between all this manoeuvring, Capita, the UK’s largest outsourcing group, is the only firm to be based in the Grand Canal Square complex, filling 3,954sq m (42,460sq ft) in No 2 at a rent of around €322 per sq m (€30 per sq ft).