What now for Irish Glass Bottle Company site in Ringsend?

Cantillon: Nama presses on with plan for prime landbank despite Covid-19 crisis

One crisis left the Irish Glass Bottle Company site in Ringsend, Dublin, in the ownership of the State, which seems likely to press ahead with plans to develop it in the teeth of an altogether different crisis.

It is history now, but in 2006, Becbay, a consortium of developer Bernard McNamara, financier Derek Quinlan and defunct State agency the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, bought the old factory site from South Wharf, an offshoot of glass-maker Ardagh, in a deal funded by Anglo Irish Bank.

The National Asset Management Agency (Nama), established to take over Irish banks' toxic property loans in the wake of the financial crisis, ended up with control of the property and adjoining land that had belonged to another boom-era developer, Liam Carroll.

80% share

Last year, Nama began seeking a partner to develop the land. The deadline for final bids was Monday. Some reports indicated that the agency was offering an 80 per cent share in the site for €125 million.

Some thought this was steep before coronavirus struck. That did not deter bidders, including Ballymore Properties, whose founder Sean Mulryan was said to be particularly keen on the site.

Whether the pandemic has prompted Mulryan and the others thought to be bidding, including US group Hines and British player Quintain, to change their offers remains to be seen.

Eyebrows raised

Nama’s decision to continue the competition, while Covid-19 has frozen construction and property players warn that it could take a long time for financiers to commit to backing any project, raised more than a few eyebrows.

However, the fact is that the Irish Glass Bottle site has lain idle since manufacturing stopped there 18 years ago. Even with a fair wind, it could be some time before current plans to develop actually get off the ground.

Those proposals provide for 3,500 apartments, including 900 social and affordable homes. A housing shortage, partly the legacy of the financial crisis that stalled the site’s development, means those dwellings are badly needed. Presumably, Nama and the final bidders believe that this demand will remain strong long after coronavirus.

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