Hume Street site may be sent to Nama

 

ONE OF the best-known buildings in Dublin’s city centre, the former Hume Street hospital, may soon be controlled by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) after refurbishment and development works at the historic site were delayed by a long-running planning dispute.

If the now-dilapidated Georgian block was moved on to Nama’s books, it would mean taxpayers effectively own two landmark properties in the vicinity of St Stephen’s Green, as the Shelbourne Hotel is also earmarked for the State agency.

It is understood developer Michael Kelly, who bought the former cancer hospital for over €30 million in 2006, when the property cycle was at its peak, hopes to avert any transfer of his loans into Nama and is looking to refinance his debt.

Documents filed at the Registry of Deeds show Mr Kelly, together with the Glandore Partnership, an entity that comprises Mr Kelly’s family members, purchased the 0.4 acre site with three mortgages provided by AIB.

In an interview with this paper two years ago, Mr Kelly predicted the property, which is located between Ely Place and St Stephen’s Green, would be redeveloped by the end of 2009 and estimated that the works would cost around €20 million.

He had intended to transform the imposing block, with its terrace of five interconnecting Georgian houses, into an upmarket business centre, making it a showcase for his family owned company, Glandore Business Centres, a serviced office provider with outlets in Dublin and Belfast.

Yet four years on from the high-profile sale of the hospital, the property remains run down and empty. At issue is the construction of a six-storey business centre at the rear of the site.

In May 2008, Mr Kelly’s company received planning permission from Dublin City Council to redevelop the property on the condition the six-storey office block was reduced to four storeys “in the interests of visual amenity”.

A similar application was rejected by the local authority in 2007.

Sources close to Mr Kelly said the height restriction rendered the entire development, including the conservation and restoration of the Georgian buildings, “financially unviable”.

It is understood Mr Kelly intends to submit another proposal for a six-storey office block once the Dublin city development plan for 2011-2017 has been finalised. This means the old hospital building will lie in disrepair for at least another year.

Dublin City Council’s chief planner, Dick Gleeson, told The Irish Times that a six-storey office block on Hume Street constituted “a kind of scale that would completely step outside” the local authoritys development “framework” for the area. He pointed out however that additional storeys had been added to buildings on nearby St Stephen’s Green with the extra height achieved through “subtle set-backs”.

As Nama’s portfolio of properties in the capital continues to balloon, the State agency and Dublin City Council are likely to be forced into close co-operation.

“Nama has some very important sites,” Mr Gleeson said, “and at some stage we will have to sit down and discuss development issues, in terms of moving projects on.”