Hibernia Reit takes action to access Dublin Garda complex

Legal action separate to OPW case to extend leases on the Harcourt Square buildings

Property investment company Hibernia Reit has taken legal action to access common areas of the Garda regional headquarters in central Dublin, which it bought last year and that property sources expect it to spend over €100 million redeveloping.

The High Court proceedings were initiated on Thursday against the Office of Public Works, which manages the lease on the Garda buildings. They are separate to an ongoing action by the OPW in the Circuit Court, seeking a statutory extension on the leases on the Harcourt Square premises.

Hibernia spent €70 million last year acquiring the four blocks, which house about 500 workers, from an entity controlled by US investment firm Starwood Capital. The company said in its annual report in May that the four leases have either expired or are due to expire this year and the company is seeking to gain vacant possession for repossession.

The property company, headed by chief executive Kevin Nowlan, received full planning permission last month for the second phase of the redevelopment of the 1.9-acre site, getting approval late last year for the first phase of the project. This would allow Hibernia Reit to more than double the amount of office space on the site, which is just minutes from St Stephen's Green, to almost 280,000 sq ft.


“On Thursday Hibernia Reit commenced High Court proceedings against the OPW seeking to enforce its right to take control of all the common areas at Harcourt Square,” a spokesman for the company said. “This is required to allow access so that Hibernia can make appropriate preparations for its planned redevelopment of the site.”

In a statement, the OPW said it had been working closely, “at at very senior level, with An Garda Siochána on all aspects of this matter”.

It said that, given the “very sensitive security, commercial and legal issues around this matter”, the agency was not in a position to offer any comment on the Hibernia action.

The OPW’s own case to extend the leases is ongoing and expected to be heard later this year. Hibernia Reit said in May that “we believe that we will be successful in these claims, and remain confident that Harcourt Square represents an excellent development opportunity.”

OPW sources said at the time that it was forced to go down the legal route because bad planning by the office, which manages the State’s property portfolio, had resulted in it having no alternative accommodation lined up for gardai working on the site.

The buildings house the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation and a communications hub and is described as the “nerve centre” of operations in the Dublin region. Staff in the centre handle emergency calls and a range of other responsibilities.

Shares in Hibernia Reit have risen 3.2 per cent since the UK’s Brexit referendum, compared to 12.4 per cent fall by the Iseq index, amid speculation demand for office space will rise further in the coming years as some businesses relocate staff to Dublin from London.

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan

Joe Brennan is Markets Correspondent of The Irish Times