Kennedy Wilson is looking to increase its foothold in Dublin's lucrative rental market yet again with an ambitious plan to build 232 luxury apartments on the site of the Leisureplex bowling alley in Stillorgan.
While the proposal is currently the subject of a fast-track planning application to An Bord Pleanála, the US real estate company's efforts to secure approval for the concierge-serviced scheme is being complicated by the fact that it is looking to deliver the apartments in blocks of up to eight storeys, in contravention of Stillorgan's local area plan (LAP).
In its initial pre-planning submission to the board last February, Kennedy Wilson had sought to build as high as nine storeys on the site. That particular proposal was rejected, however, with the planners suggesting that it required “further consideration and amendment” along with other issues before a fast-track application could be submitted.
Having considered the board’s views, Kennedy Wilson has now sought a material contravention of Stillorgan’s local area plan to allow for the development of the apartments in blocks ranging in height from four to eight storeys.
While the plan is likely to encounter opposition from residents in nearby St Laurence's Park, the US developer argues that another developer, Cairn Homes, has already secured permission to build student accommodation blocks of up to eight storeys on the adjacent Blakes restaurant site.
Kennedy Wilson also argues that its proposal for the Leisureplex site is consistent with certain objectives of Stillorgan’s local area plan which state that, in “exceptional circumstances”, taller building heights may be allowed in district centres.
Should An Bord Pleanála give its approval to the plan, the Los Angeles-headquartered company also intends to deliver four restaurants and cafes, and two retail units on the site. The apartments would cater for the upper end of the rental market, with proposals for a concierge service, cinema, gym, along with a residents’ lounge, co-working space, dining area, communal kitchen and rooftop terrace. The Leisureplex bowling alley – or Stillorgan Bowl as it was known originally – is facing closure and demolition as part of the plan.
Kennedy Wilson bought the 2.5-acre site for €15 million in 2016. While that price represented a premium of 50 per cent on the €10 million agent Sherry FitzGerald had been guiding when it brought it to the market, it was a mere fraction of the €65 million Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett's Treasury Holdings paid to acquire it in 2006.
While Treasury engaged in consultations with the local community with a view to devising a masterplan for the bowling alley site along with Stillorgan shopping centre, which it also owned, its ambitions were brought to an abrupt halt by the economic crash.
Prior to the developer's acquisition of the site, the Leisureplex's owners, brothers Ciarán and Colum Butler, had their own plan for the lands refused by An Bord Pleanála. The Butlers had wanted to build 314 apartments, a library, commercial and retail space, and a new leisure building and gym in 15 blocks.
Outside of its revised plan for the Leisureplex site, Kennedy Wilson is also seeking fast-track planning permission from An Bord Pleanála for 287 apartments on a four-acre site it owns at the exclusive Grange development on the nearby Stillorgan Road.
The new apartments, which would also be privately let, would be delivered across six blocks ranging in height from one to 11 storeys. The addition of the units would bring Kennedy Wilson’s overall portfolio at the Grange to 561 apartments.
In seeking approval for the scheme, the developer is proposing to sell 18 two-bedroom apartments to Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council at a cost of around €600,000 each in order to comply with its Part V obligations governing the provision of social and affordable housing.