Around the block


U2 Tower to be ready by 2011?:WITH A NUMBER of high-profile public private partnership (PPP) housing regeneration schemes biting the dust of late, tongues have been wagging about the viability of the ambitious U2 Tower in Dublin's south docklands.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority's (DDDA) annual report published yesterday sets 2011 as the completion date for the tower. However, negotiations between the DDDA and development firm Geranger have been on the long-winded side, to put it mildly.

Talks between the two parties began last October and Geranger - a consortium consisting of Seán Mulryans Ballymore Homes, developer Paddy McKillen and U2 band and management members - are still being referred to as "provisional preferred bidder" by the DDDA.

Paul Maloney, chief executive of the DDDA, however, has the end of July as D Day.

The "state of play" (meaning whether the provisional preferred bidder has moved to preferred bidder) will be announced then, according to Maloney. Not a man to be pinned down, Maloney says that "financial, legal and technical" issues were still being hammered out by the two parties.

No doubt there is much to discuss. The tower, due to rise to well over 120 metres, will be the tallest building built in Dublin and by far the most ambitious PPP scheme.

And that's not to mention the beleaguered residential market and question marks over the feasibility of PPP schemes.

"Naturally we are being exceptionally careful," says Maloney.

Starchitects Foster + Partners' plans for the €200 million scheme include a hotel, shops and residential accommodation - 20 per cent of which will be social and affordable.

Referring to the stalled residential market as one of the "hurdles" the authority has to overcome, Maloney insists that it is "committed to ensuring the U2 Tower is built and has taken very significant steps to deliver it".

Fingers crossed it won't be a bad case of vertigo!

Champagne launch but flat sales at Chesterfield

THE HOTTEST ticket in town it wasn't, according to our moles at the recent garden party preview of Chesterfield, the new apartment development on Cross Avenue in Blackrock, Co Dublin.

The late Tom Roches house and lands were picked up by developer Myles Crofton several years ago for around €45 million and, following a lengthy planning process, he secured permission for some 142 apartments to the rear of the site.

He intends to keep the main Roche house as a new office for his development company while he is also completing a massive mansion for himself with road frontage onto Cross Avenue, also nick-named the Shrewsbury Road of the southside. This could come in handy if an incoming owner is unhappy with the snag list corrections. Priced from €560,000 for the smallest one-bed (55sq m/592sq ft) to €2.5 million for the largest (145sq m/1,561sq ft) penthouse, few buyers emerged despite the clement weather, strawberries and champagne.

The freeloaders were mainly made up of nosy neighbours, many of whom were concerned about the additional traffic generated by the development which will impact on nearby Mount Merrion Avenue and Booterstown Avenue, both of which are presently hugely traffic congested.

Other neighbouring imbibers recounted a current rat epidemic locally which they believe was caused by the disruption of the mature lands and miniature lake so beloved of the Roche family as well as the interminable road works taking place on Mount Merrion Avenue over the last nine months.

HT Meagher O'Reilly intends to formally launch the scheme in September with completions from 2010 onwards. Local buyers who intend to trade down to the scheme may be offered a deferred payment option.

Apartments in open space scheme sell well

IT'S BEEN A tough time for apartment sales in recent months with buyers staying away from large scale developments in anticipation of further price cuts. However, small, well located schemes have been quietly selling, so long as the price and position are sufficiently attractive.

Iain Finnegan of Finnegan Menton is quietly optimistic, having sold no less than 20 apartments in a fortnight at a scheme called Kensington Lodge off Rochestown Avenue in Dún Laoghaire.

The draw here was wide open spaces - the apartments are being built in three blocks set around a walled garden of around an acre, while the original house on the property, Kensington Lodge, is being refurbished. Buyers, too, may have been attracted by the design packages being offered by Pia Bang, who has oodles of design style, as well as by her husband Jeff Stokes who is behind the Unicorn restaurant empire.

The sales are all the more surprising since the scheme is being sold from plans, and the development will not take shape until sometime next year.

Ok, it's not the heady days of sell-out weekends, says Finnegan, but it does show that the right product is selling.

Will new plan for village be a runner in Foxrock?

NO ONE knows the value of land more than Foxrock residents who have some of the biggest gardens on the southside. It is hardly surprising that they are now putting pressure on Horse Racing Ireland (HRI) to release some of their surplus space at Leopardstown Racecourse for use as a car-park. How on earth can one have an afternoon frappe at The Gables if there is no parking for the BMW X5? Trouble is, SUVs aside, the narrow village streets are used by HRI as an access route to the racecourse. On race day up to 50 horse transporters trundle through the streets to gain access to the racecourse.

Adding to the traffic woes of the village are two upcoming developments that will generate even more traffic. David Arnold surprised everyone when he got planning permission for 37 apartments on the edge of the village. Then local resident Michael McNamara lobbed in a planning application to redevelop his house and gardens. He is looking to build 11 apartments, an office and shop on one of the four corners of the village crossroads.

Not surprising, locals have identified a stretch of land just inside the entrance as a future car-park. Correspondence between local residents' organisation Foxrock Area Development Ltd and HRI didn't go so well. The council is now in discussions with HRI and the rumour is that the "mood music" is good. This and much more will be discussed at a public meeting tonight where Eugene Gribben, consultant architect to Dún Laoghaire Rathdown County Council, will unveil the long-awaited Village Improvement Scheme.

The public meeting will take place in Tullow Parish Hall on Brighton Road at 8pm.

Who said the party's over?

FULL MARKS to Dublin commercial property agency HWBC. At a time when most agencies are preoccupied with the sharp downturn in the market and the prospect of layoffs, pay cuts and short time working, the three-year-old HWBC lifted the gloom last Friday by throwing an elaborate party for 250 of their clients and friends.

With so little going on in the commercial market, most of the major players turned up to enjoy a few glasses of champagne and lunch cooked by Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain as part of the "Taste of Dublin" festival in the Iveagh Gardens. The guests adjourned to a nearby hotel for the afternoon and later on returned again to the Iveagh Gardens to continue the gourmandising experience.

Now, who's next?

Of course the invite of the week this week was to Royal Ascot.

At a time when corporate entertaining has gone quiet, developer Seán Dunne bucked the trend by taking over 30 people to rub shoulders with the Queen. What recession?


JONES LANG LASALLEhas appointed a new national director and a new associate director. Max Reilly (above) has been appointed national director. He has been with the company since 1997 and has worked in the capital markets, office agency and valuations departments before being appointed associate director in 2003. Christian Moore, senior surveyor in the advisory department, has been appointed associate director. He joined Jones Lang LaSalle in 2004 and specialises in valuations and advisory reports for banks, private investors and developers.

CB RICHARD ELLIShas made a number of promotions in its global corporate services team. Patricia Ward has been promoted to head of global corporate services. Paddy Conlon, recently promoted to associate director, has taken a senior position within the team.

DTZ SHERRY FITZGERALDhas appointed Johanna Gill as director. A chartered surveyor specialising in valuation, she joined the firm in 2005.

In Limerick, DTZ Sherry FitzGerald has appointed David Clancy as associate director. A chartered surveyor specialising in professional services, he heads up this division in the Limerick office.