Major apartment scheme for Ballsbridge hotel sites

Country’s most expensive site has planning permission for 490 apartments and hotel

Ireland’s most expensive development site, one of the centrepieces of the property crash, is finally to be offered for sale on the international market.

The high-profile landbank occupied by the Clyde Court and the Ballsbridge hotels in Dublin 4 seems destined to accommodate 490 apartments as well as a standalone hotel and a range of retail, restaurant and leisure facilities.

A number of international investment funds have already registered their interest in the hotels and the grounds extending to 2.78 hectares (6.8 acres) which were bought at the peak of the property boom by developer Seán Dunne for €380 million.

Estimates of the current value vary greatly between €120 million and €150 million. Mr Dunne's bankers, Ulster and Rabobank, took partial control of the hotels in 2009 after An Bord Pleanála overruled Dublin City Council and refused permission for a high density office, retail and residential development including a 37-storey tower and an underground shopping centre.

High density

In spite of the planning refusal, no time was lost in reapplying for a largely residential development, a high density, six to 12-storey scheme which will include 490 apartments, a standalone hotel with 152 bedrooms and 7,153sq m (77,000sq ft) of retail and associated commercial/leisure space. The fact that such a comprehensive planning permission has been granted to run until 2021 may well persuade the eventual purchaser to proceed with the approved development rather than reopen the controversial planning issue once more.

The two banks involved have brought in Peter Geissel of UK commercial property advisers Eastdil Secured to work alongside Tom Barrett and Mark Reynolds of Savills to find an overseas investor. The indications are that the Ballsbridge property is most likely to be acquired by an overseas fund which might well set up a joint venture with an Irish construction company.

Few, if any, Irish developers are in a position to finance such a large-scale scheme without the support of Irish banks who are not currently lending on these ventures.

The sale, codenamed "Project Trinity", reflects the historical use of the site as it was originally the Trinity College Botanic Gardens.

Today, it is occupied by the 400-bedroom Ballsbridge Hotel and the 185-bedroom Clyde Court Hotel which are operated on short-term leases by Dalata Hotel Group.

The planning permission provides for a 1.5 million sq ft new urban landscape of pedestrian streets and a public plaza. The site is laid out in 12 distinct blocks, some of which are standalone pavilion-style residential buildings with gardens fronting Lansdowne Road and Pembroke Road. In addition, new terraced apartment buildings will form around landscaped courtyards and gardens with a large retail centre and a standalone 152-bedroom hotel fronting a new plaza on to Pembroke Road.


The overall design by architects O’Mahony Pike will allow maximum flexibility and the means to build it out in stages.

The selling agents say that in the right hands the Ballsbridge site will become a showcase of “high-end luxury residential living not seen before in Dublin along with the potential to deliver a new four- to five-star hotel for the Dublin city centre market.”

The agents added: “Once in a generation an opportunity arises to be part of a truly transformative development story and will be of interest to anyone serious about urban development in Europe.”

Savills say there is already a pent-up demand from domestic and international buyers for quality apartments in prime Dublin locations against the backdrop of a limited competing supply coming to the market.

In particular there would be a strong interest from London buyers on the back of the strength of sterling as shown in recent sales in Dublin 3 where prices exceeded €700 per sq ft. Apartment prices in south Dublin had already increased by 30 per cent since the start of 2013, according to Savills

Jack Fagan

Jack Fagan

Jack Fagan is the former commercial-property editor of The Irish Times