Barrow Street booms as south docklands schemes take off


Developers are fighting for a piece of the action on Barrow Street, now that prestigious tenants like Google are moving in. Edel Morgan reports

Barrow Street, once one of most neglected streets in Dublin, now has the full attention of the city's major developers.

The once bleak Dublin 4 street, which was filled with disused warehouses, is the focus of frantic office and apartment construction activity and has gone from no-go area to the natural link between between the established office areas around Baggot Street and Burlington Road, and new docklands developments in Grand Canal Harbour, south of the Liffey.

Sean Kelly of Benton Property Holdings is the latest in a Who's Who of developers to get a piece of the Barrow Street action. His reputed €42.5 million tender for the IAWS Boland's Mill building pipped several other €40 million-plus bids for the site.

Since the big guns moved in on Barrow Street, there has been a battle of wits to secure prestigious tenants. When US-based search engine company Google decided to capitalise on the weakness of the Dublin office market and locate its European headquarters here, it played two developers off one another to see who would give them the better deal.

These were Liam Carroll of Zoe Developments who is behind the Gasworks 5,574 sq m (60,000 sq ft) office and 600-apartment development and developer Bernard McNamara, whose company is building Grand Mill Quay, which has 8,918 sq m (96,000 CHECK sq ft) of offices and around 110 apartments across the road.

The Gasworks eventual coup was widely publicised and the confidence generated by the signing up of such a company has helped propel the fortunes of Barrow Street from strength to strength.

Google was reported to have agreed a rent of around €452-€462 per sq m (€42-€43 per sq ft), for the 1,858 sq m (20,000 sq ft) let with rent-free periods.

Mason Hayes and Curran solicitors negotiated with both Treasury Holdings and Liam Carroll's Zoe developments to see which would give them better terms and eventually went for the Treasury-built nine-storey office building under construction beside Treasury Holdings' own headquarters, which its director of property John Bruder describes as being located "in the thick of things" on the street.

The Mason Hayes and Curran signing was the first pre-letting agreement in the Barrow Street area. Designed by Anthony Reddy and Associates, it will have a glazed façade and atrium and is due for completion in 2006. The street's DART station has helped increase its attractiveness to developers and prospective tenants. That, coupled with its proximity to prime Dublin 2 and Dublin 4 areas but with less prohibitive rents, has also been a factor that has appealed to larger companies, says Willie Dowling of CB Richard Ellis Gunne, who is handling the letting of the Gasworks office scheme.

"It appeals to a wide spectrum of companies across the professional, IT and financial sectors. It may not be as prime as Dublin 2 but it has good transport links and is attractive to companies looking for significant volumes of space."

Treasury and CIÉ recently got planning permission to build a new concourse to Barrow Street DART station together with shops at concourse level and 220 apartments. A planning application is just about to be lodged by Treasury for the one-and-a-half acre site beside the 6,823 sq m (73,442 sq ft) Mason Hayes and Curran building, for a mixed office and residential scheme

Some analysts believe the success of the South Docks area - where the DDDA's €2bn Grand Canal Harbour redevelopment is located - may threaten the future of the north docklands.

It is believed that the IFSC may have to re-assess its rental levels or see its major tenants flee across the water. Law firm McCann FitzGerald, for example, left the IFSC for a 10,000 sq m (107,639 sq ft) CHECK building on Sir John Rogerson's Quay.

Three years ago the IFSC could command rents of €602 per sq m (€56 per sq ft).

Grand Canal Docks has seen a number of large developments, including the €130m Gallery Quay, designed by Horan Keogan Ryan, facing onto Grand Canal Harbour and built by Alanis, Liberty Homes, Redquartz Development and Pierse Contracting in partnership with the DDDA. It will have 298 apartments, a piazza, shops and restaurants.

When the south docklands is finished it will have 3,000 new homes, over 100,000 sq m (over 1 million sq ft) of offices spread over the former Bord Gáis Éireann site as well as landmark cultural buildings, a hotel, restaurants, bars and shops.

Despite the office slowdown, many of the new and prestigious office lettings this year were in the Barrow Street/Grand Canal Docks area.