Piazza plan for College Green good news for retailers

Proposal is bound to have significant consequences for property in the area

 

Dublin City Council’s plan to create a piazza in front of Bank of Ireland on College Green – effectively blocking traffic from moving through the area to Dame Street – could have some side-effects on property in the area.

Already, there has been considerable spillover from retailers who failed to secure a pitch on Grafton Street, opting instead to take space on surrounding streets.

This has enlarged the shopping precinct around Ireland’s premier high street which, some contend, now extends down to College Green after H&M, American Apparel and Abercrombie & Fitch opened large stores near Trinity College in recent years. There is intense competition among investors and retailers for space on Suffolk Street and now this is extending into Trinity Street and St Andrew’s Street.

At 10-12 Trinity Street and 16-17 St Andrew’s Street, for example, Francis Rhatigan’s Lotaview Holdings Group is refurbishing 608sq m (6,544sq ft) of office space and has just let the retail element of this corner building – extending to 550sq m (5,920sq ft) over the ground, basement and first floors – off-market to UK outdoors specialist Cotswold at a rent of €300,000. This will be Cotswold’s first outlet in the State and it should be open for business in October. It will carry an extensive range of outdoor apparel and equipment, and stocks well-known brands such as Berghaus, The North Face, Columbia and Craghoppers.

Next door at 13 Trinity Street and extending around into Andrew’s Lane, Nigel Kingston of Lambert Smith Hampton is quoting €4.2 million for a vacant and unlisted corner building with undoubted redevelopment potential.

“The council’s piazza plan for College Green will increase footfall and retail opportunities in the Dame, Trinity and Suffolk Street area,” says Mr Kingston. “You can envisage lots of cafés, restaurants and specialist shops setting up. It’ll be good news for property owners in this zone.”

Close by, Andrew’s Lane Theatre has just come on the market at €3.1 million and this may convince Eir to sell its one-acre site next door and thus spark a major redevelopment of this neglected corner of the city centre within a stone’s throw of College Green.

Aidan Gavin, managing director of DTZ Sherry FitzGerald, believes the council’s plans for College Green will speed up the trend of period bank buildings in the area transitioning to retail – as happened with H&M, The Bank on College Green pub and Abercrombie & Fitch.

“The piazza plan will also create a more pedestrian-friendly city,” says Mr Gavin, “and encourage the flow from south to north and vice-versa along the Grafton-O’Connell Street axis. People will want to spend more time in College Green if the piazza plan goes ahead so that can only be good for retail. If I was a property owner in the area, I would be very comfortable with what the council is planning.”

However, not everyone is entirely convinced by the merits of the council’s piazza plan. John McCartney, director of research at estate agent Savills, says there is “limited retail opportunity” around the proposed piazza given that Trinity College and Bank of Ireland occupy two of the proposed square’s three sides. “Shops, cafés and restaurants would serve to retain people in the area,” he says.

But the council’s piazza extends around Foster Place and up to Anglesea Street on the northside of College Green. So there may be potential to develop retail, subject to planning permission, in this office area.

Mr McCartney also believes the council should consider pedestrianising Suffolk Street and Church Lane, thus creating an obvious car-free link between the College Green piazza and Grafton Street.

“Creating a square at College Green could add value to surrounding streets like Suffolk Street, Dame Street and Church Lane. Critical to this would be a continuous pedestrian link to Grafton Street.”

A new public square at College Green may also encourage more property owners in the area to develop apartments on the vacant upper floors of period buildings. Clarendon Properties had initially thought of installing offices on the upper levels of the mid-Victorian building occupied by H&M on College Green, but opted instead for eight high-end apartments which went on the letting market last July at €3,000 per month. These apartments have views over College Green and underline a growing trend to see the city centre as somewhere to live as well as work.