Global tech giants make a 3.6m sq ft impression on Dublin cityscape
Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Salesforce in the process of creating European campuses for 36,000 staff
LinkedIn’s European HQ at Wilton Park will comprise 770,000sq ft once its current 190,000sq ft Wilton Place office is factored in.
It’s a legitimate question given the seemingly relentless growth of their European HQ operations in the city’s docklands and beyond. But it’s a question for which there won’t be an answer anytime soon judging by the rate at which the tech giants are expanding relative to the increase in the supply of residential accommodation.
If the acronym FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google) can be applied to the five most popular tech stocks for investors, then GALFS could equally be used to capture the five most lucrative opportunities that currently exist for developers of commercial real estate in Dublin.
Taken together, Google, Amazon, LinkedIn, Facebook and Salesforce are in the process of establishing five individual campuses covering a total area of 3.6 million square feet between the north and south docklands, at the Baggot Street and Charlemont sections of the Grand Canal, and in Ballsbridge.
While the office space within this “Tech Town” hub will, upon completion, have the capacity to accommodate around 36,000 workers, it doesn’t take account of the thousands of additional personnel Google, Facebook and Salesforce have recruited to work in their offices in the Sandyford Business District (SBD) in south Dublin.
So where exactly are the big five tech companies now, and where are they going in the future?
In the case of Google, Googletown, Silicon Docks, and even Google Docks are just some of the names that have come to be associated with the area where the US search engine staked its first significant claim in 2011, when it purchased its European headquarters on Barrow Street and the nearby Montevetro building for €100 million and €99 million respectively.
Developed by Treasury Holdings, the company formerly led by Johnny Ronan and Richard Barrett, the two properties have since come to represent the centrepiece of a sprawling network of offices, which together, account for a total of 650,000 square feet of space in and around Grand Canal Quay and Grand Canal Street.
Outside of Barrow Street, Google’s 8,000-strong workforce is distributed throughout numerous other buildings in the immediate area including the 96,500sq ft (8,965sq m) Grand Mill Quay building, the 51,000sq ft (4,738sq m) Velasco building on Grand Canal Street, and over several floors at businessman Denis O’Brien’s offices at One Grand Canal Quay. The company also has offices in Block L at Freeman House in Eastpoint Business Park, and at the Chase and Blackthorn buildings in Sandyford.
But as significant as this sounds, Google continues to swallow up large swathes of the Dublin docklands as it seeks out options for thousands more of its workers. Quite apart from the 396,660sq ft (36,581sq m) of office, residential, retail and cultural space it is developing at Boland’s Quay at present, the company is engaged in negotiations in relation to the rental of all 202,000sq ft (18,766sq m) of space at the Sorting Office, the seven-storey office block being developed in the docklands by Pat Crean’s Marlet Property Group.
In terms of their overall capacity, Boland’s Quay and the Sorting Office could potentially accommodate a total of 4,500 workers, or 2,500 and 2,000 personnel respectively. Google’s recent agreement to lease more than 75,000sq ft (7,000sq m) of office space in Block I at Central Park in Sandyford provides it with the capacity for an additional 750 workers.
Should Google decide to make use of all of its existing space along with the additional capacity it is in the process of creating through the development of Boland’s Quay, and the rentals of the Sorting Office and Block I in Central Park, its current Dublin-based workforce of 8,000 could increase by up to 5,250 (65.62 per cent) to 13,250.
Having secured its new European HQ offices in 2016 with an agreement to rent all 172,000sq ft at the Vertium Building, developed by U+I and Johnny Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) on Burlington Road, Amazon confirmed its intent last November to grow its Irish operations significantly.
Following discussions which began as far back as March 2018, the online retail giant signed an agreement to lease 17,000sq ft of office space being developed by developer Seán Reilly’s McGarrell Reilly Group at its Charlemont Square scheme in Dublin city centre.
The new offices, which are being delivered as part of the wider Charlemont Street regeneration project, will allow Amazon to increase its existing workforce by around 1,700. The company already employs more than 2,200 people in the capital between its European headquarters in the Shannon Building on Burlington Road and other locations.
Charlemont Square will be used to accommodate Amazon’s highly skilled staff, including software engineers, network development engineers, data centre specialists, systems and support experts, and solutions architects.
The professional networking platform already has a considerable presence within Dublin’s central business district (CBD), with more than 1,200 people employed at its existing European HQ offices at Wilton Place.
While that figure is set to rise by summer of this year to 2,000, there is the potential for the company to expand its workforce by a further 4,000 in the medium to long term following its agreement last month to pre-let the remaining 39,950sq m (430,000sq ft) of office space being developed by Irish property company Iput at its Wilton Park scheme.
LinkedIn is already committed to taking the 150,000 sq ft of office space at One Wilton Park which is due for delivery by the end of this year , and has now agreed a 25-year deal for buildings two, three and four.
Construction of the three blocks will begin this year and is targeted for delivery in 2023. Upon their completion, LinkedIn’s self-contained EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) operations at Wilton Park will occupy 71,535sq m (770,000sq ft), once its current 17,650sq m (190,000sq ft) Wilton Place office is factored in.
It already has more than 4,000 employees in Ireland across five locations – Grand Canal Square in the Dublin docklands, the Samuel Beckett building on East Wall Road in Dublin 3, Nova Atria South at Sandyford, the Clonee data centre in Co Meath and Facebook Reality Labs in Cork.
That number is set to grow substantially in the coming years, with the arrival of the social media behemoth’s new European HQ campus in Ballsbridge.
Located directly opposite the RDS on the 14 acres occupied by AIB’s former Bank Centre premises, the new scheme will incorporate 725,000sq ft of office space, and be capable of accommodating up to 7,000 workers.
While Facebook’s new EMEA campus will see the refurbishment of the site’s existing buildings, which are owned by Davy Target Investments and a syndicate of investors known as the Serpentine Consortium, it will also include the delivery of 375,000sq ft of new office space by developer RGRE and Colony Capital.
Facebook’s decision to take out a 25-year lease on Ronan’s Fibonacci Square office development represented the largest single office letting in the history of the State.
The new buildings will frame the entrance to the wider Facebook campus. More than 60 Facebook teams will eventually be located in Ballsbridge. It will also be home to staff working for its subsidiary applications, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, and its Oculus virtual reality unit.
While Salesforce is already committed to locating its new European HQ campus at Spencer Place, the 717,000sq ft (66,599sq m) mixed -use scheme developer RGRE is building in the north docklands, it remains to be seen just how many people the US software giant will have working there.
Although Salesforce is fully prepared to grow the existing 1,000-strong workforce it has between its current offices at the Atrium building and One Central Park in Sandyford to 5,000 personnel at Spencer Place, the final capacity of the scheme’s offices have yet to be determined by Dublin City Council.
While the current planning consent for 430,000sq ft of office accommodation would provide the company with sufficient room for around 4,000 workers, Ronan is pressing for the development of a further 100,000sq ft at least, through an increase in the permitted height of Salesforce Tower from nine to 13 storeys. The additional space would be sufficient to accommodate another 1,000 Salesforce personnel on the site.
While Ronan’s bid to add four floors to the building follows two previous and unsuccessful applications for the addition of two storeys, he has argued that it is consistent with Dublin City Council’s own recently revised recommendations for building heights in the North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock strategic development zone (SDZ).
Having undertaken a review of the SDZ in accordance with the Department of Housing’s guidelines on building heights, the council submitted a proposal to An Bord Pleanála on May 31st last, recommending that structures of up to 13 storeys be permitted in the area to the front of the Salesforce campus site at Spencer Place.
Quite apart from providing Salesforce with up to 530,000 sq ft of offices, Spencer Place will include three storeys of internal landscaped gardens and breakout areas, 1,000 bike spaces, a 10,000 sq ft gym, two hotels alongside premium retail space, bars and restaurants.