Bank aware of irony in acquiring Anglo site


ANALYSIS:The Central Bank was not unaware of the irony of acquiring the Anglo site on North Wall Quay given that it was once planned as a future headquarters for “the bank that broke Ireland”.

Indeed, it was anticipating there would be an adverse public reaction to the move. Now that the deal is signed, sealed and delivered, Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan will be relieved that reaction has been so muted.

The Central Bank took the view that the North Wall Quay site was the only one available in Dublin with sufficient office space to accommodate all its staff, currently based in three city centre locations.

“It’s exactly the right size and fits our staff numbers well. It’s also the cheapest option available,” a source said in December.

There was also concern in the Central Bank that if it did not move quickly it could be “gazumped” by others such as US bank BNY Mellon or a very popular rival proposal by Dublin-based Mahoney Architecture to turn the skeletal structure into a “vertical park”.

Now it is certain that the State’s financial regulatory authority will end up with its headquarters on the site once reserved for Anglo Irish Bank – whose irresponsible lending it had failed to regulate.

The Anglo skeleton on North Wall Quay, when completed, will provide 21,400sq m of office space for 1,500 staff for an institution that has expanded in recent years, largely in response to the financial crisis.

A €7 million snip

The Central Bank’s rationale was that the site could be acquired cheaply – a snip at €7 million – and the building could be completed economically; construction tender prices are now relatively low.

One of the main implications is that its headquarters in Dame Street, designed by the late Sam Stephenson, would be left vacant. Possible suggested uses include a new Central Library for Dublin. However, with seven floors, it would not be ideal as a library.

An alternative suggestion, put forward in our Reinventing Dublin series, is that it could be swapped with Bank of Ireland for the old Parliament House on College Green and the library located there.