The long-delayed sale of Dublin’s Gresham Hotel is finally to proceed following Nama’s approval of an international marketing campaign to find a buyer for the city’s best-known four-star hostelry, which is due to celebrate its 200th anniversary next year.
Paul Collins of CBRE Hotels and Dave Murray of Christie & Co are to handle the sale of the O'Connell Street hotel which is expected to make in excess of €80 million – well short of the €117 million price paid for it in 2004 by Precinct Investments, a company controlled by house builder Bryan Cullen.
Irish-listed hotel group Dalata has signalled its intention to bid for the historic hotel which will also be of interest to several international hotel chains who, if successful, will have the option of trading under the present strong identity or converting it to an international brand. The Goldman Sachs offshoot Tifco along with US businessman John Malone and several North American and Far East bidders may also bid for it.
Shortage of bedrooms
The renewed interest in the Irish hotel market comes after the industry recorded a 20 per cent increase in revenues last year – the highest of any European country – with the prospect of even better returns ahead due to an acute shortage in bedrooms in the city.
The Gresham, a distinctive cut-stone building, has been synonymous with the social, commercial and tourist life of the city since it opened in 1817. It was the most popular and stylish hotel in the city for decades, helped by an art deco classical fit-out in the late 1920s.
Its reputation suffered somewhat from the 1980s onwards largely because of the decline of O'Connell Street as a shopping thoroughfare and the replacement of many fashion stores by fast-food outlets. However, the fortunes of the street look like changing again with the planned redevelopment of a major site on the opposite side of O'Connell Street and the widely expected announcement about the future of Clerys department store.
Close to the Gresham, a UK company is well advanced on converting the former Findlater House office block into a 198-bedroom hotel which will trade as the Holiday Inn Express.
The Gresham sits on a sizeable 0.53 hectare site (1.32 acres) fronting on to O'Connell Street, Cathal Brugha Street and Marlborough Street. It has 323 guest rooms including 10 individually designed suites, the most notable being the Eisenhower Suite – one of the largest in Europe with five bedrooms and an overall floor area of 280sq m (3,013sq ft).
Regular capital investment
The selling agents will be quick to point out that the hotel has greatly benefited from regular capital investment, the most recent being the development of 24 additional guest rooms and the refurbishment of the public areas on the ground floor. New owners will be interested to discover that there is currently planning permission to expand the hotel further to increase the bedroom stock to 465 and significantly enlarge the conference and banqueting accommodation as well as back-of-house facilities. As things stand, the Gresham has the advantage of an on-site multi-storey car park with a capacity for 134 cars. The hotel has spacious food and beverage outlets along with 22 meeting, conference and banqueting rooms that can accommodate 1,550 delegates.
Paul Collins said the Gresham would benefit considerably from the major changes to the area including the introduction of the LUAS cross-city service, the modernisation of Clerys and the redevelopment of the 5.43-acre Dublin central site on O’Connell Street, as well as changes to the Parnell Street Quarter.
Dave Murray said the hotel was renowned for hosting some of the great figures of the 20th century from the world of politics, commerce and Hollywood.