Former City Arts Centre hits the market at €35m

145,000sq ft office development proposed for site which has lain dormant for 18 years

The former City Arts Centre on Dublin’s City Quay. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

The former City Arts Centre on Dublin’s City Quay. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

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Having lain dormant since its sale to a consortium of developers including Paddy Kelly and the McCormack family’s investment vehicle Alanis Capital in 2003, the former City Arts Centre on Dublin’s City Quay is being offered to the market once again.

While little has happened with the property itself in the 18 years since it changed hands for €4.2 million, the area surrounding the building and the 0.22 hectare (0.55 acre) plot it sits on has been transformed to the point where 1-6 City Quay is the last remaining waterfront development site in Dublin’s docklands.

That distinction is reflected in the €35 million now being sought by agent Savills on behalf of the receiver, Ken Tyrell of PWC.

Located at the southern end of the Talbot Memorial Bridge, the subject property is zoned Z5 in the current Dublin City Development Plan (2016-2022), which permits a broad range of uses including office, residential or hotel development, or a combination thereof.

The site is flanked on either side by the recently-developed eight-storey (10,960sq m/118,000sq ft) headquarters of Grant Thornton at 13-18 City Quay and Irish Life’s newly-redeveloped 1GQ office complex at George’s Quay.

A computer-generated image of the office scheme proposed in a feasibility study for the City Arts Centre site in Dublin’s south docklands.
A computer-generated image of the office scheme proposed in a feasibility study for the City Arts Centre site in Dublin’s south docklands.

Although neither development could be replicated within the confines of the City Arts Centre site, interested parties will be aiming to maximise its potential for height and density.

On June 12th, 2017, the provisions of the George’s Quay Local Area Plan (LAP) were extended for five years up to July 2022. Under the LAP the height strategy for the City Arts site is for buildings of between six and nine storeys

It would be open to the purchaser of the site to seek permission for a higher structure, however, by referring to the urban development and building heights guidelines for planning authorities issued by minister for housing Eoghan Murphy in December 2018.

Building heights

According to these local authorities may assess permissible building heights on a qualitative basis, rather than by the prescriptive limitations in development plans or local area plans.

A feasibility study drawn up by RKD Architects in preparation for the site’s sale suggests it could accommodate a 145,000sq ft (net) office development, subject to planning permission. Further details of the proposed scheme are available from the selling agents.

Commenting on the sale, John Swarbrigg, director of development and consultancy at Savills, said: “This is the very last opportunity to acquire a much sought after waterfront site in Dublin’s docklands – both north and south – and arguably the most prominent and noteworthy due to its ideal location between Dublin’s historic core to the west and financial services and business district to the east.

“I have no doubt that demand will be strong from various local and international developers looking to establish or extend their presence in this location – this is the last chance.”

Loan book

Receiver Ken Tyrell of PWC is seeking to dispose of the former City Arts Centre site on behalf of Dengrove DAC, a vehicle of US investment firm Colony Capital.

Colony’s interest in the property comes via its acquisition for €455 million in 2017 of Nama’s €1.5 billion Project Tolka loan book. The transaction saw Colony take control of loans mainly linked to developers John Flynn, Paddy Kelly and the McCormack family, who control the property investment vehicle Alanis.

Other significant assets captured in the deal included a 75 per cent stake in the Burlington Plaza office complex on Burlington Road and a 72 per cent share in the headquarters of Three Ireland on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Colony completed the sale of both of these interests to US private equity giant Blackstone earlier this year.