Ballsbridge sale sets record for land values


The sale of Franklin House on Pembroke Road for €25 million - the equivalent of €133 million an acre - means that the record for land prices in Ballsbridge has been broken five times over the past year, writes Jack Fagan

The jockeying for a stake in the multi-million euro development site in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4, has moved a stage further with the sale of another office block on Pembroke Road.

An unidentified buyer has paid over €25 million for Franklin House, a five-storey office building which has been owned for several years by property developer Gerry Gannon. The building, which is almost directly opposite the American Embassy, was sold in a private deal through James Meagher of agent HT Meagher O'Reilly.

It is thought unlikely that it was bought by any of the developers who already own sites in what has become the most valuable stretch of land in the country.

The price paid for Franklin House suggests that values are still rising, as more developers pitch for a piece of the action. The 16-year-old block takes up almost 0.2 of an acre. That adds up to an equivalent price of €133 million an acre - a long way ahead of the previous sales.

The five-acre Jurys Hotel site bought by Sean Dunne of Mountbrook Homes now looks particularly good value at €50 million an acre. He later spent €60 million an acre buying the Berkeley Court Hotel from Jurys, taking his total spend to €380 million. That works out at an average of just over €54 million an acre for what is arguably the best part of the overall site.

Any misgivings about the price paid for the hotel lands were quickly dispelled when Maynooth developer Ray Grehan of Glenkerrin Homes paid €171.5 million for the former Veterinary College. This worked out at €83 million an acre for the 2.05-acre property. Anyone who thought that that was the end of the buying frenzy got another shock when developer Gerry O'Reilly and property adviser David Courtney paid €35.9 million for the State-owned Faculty Building - equating to a staggering €95 million an acre.

This week's sale of Franklin House for the equivalent of €133 million an acre means that the land deal record for Ballsbridge has now been broken on five different occasions over the past year.

The latest extravagance will undoubtedly please the Galway developer Frank O'Malley who, for over a decade, has owned the Shelbourne House office complex which is flanked by the Berkeley Court and the Faculty Building.

The sale of Franklin House further complicates the carve up of Dublin's most valuable development site.

The latest office block to be sold is a largely undistinguished dark brown building running from Pembroke Road back to Shelbourne Lane. It has a net lettable area of 1,017sq m (10,946sq ft) and planning permission to add a further 764sq m (8,223sq ft).

The zoning for the site provides for "the creation and protection of enterprise and to facilitate opportunities for employment creation".

However, the zoning for the area is likely to change once Dublin City Council completes a local area action plan which is likely to determine a maximum height for buildings on the entire site.

There has been a general welcome for Sean Dunne's vision for the hotel sites, where he is hoping to develop a Knightsbridge-style scheme with a mixture of apartments and a hotel surrounded by shops, restaurants, cafés and bars.