Around the block


Hansard to head for the southside?DUBLIN ESTATE agents will be hoping that Ireland's newest Oscar winners Glen Hansard and his co-songwriter Markéta Irglová may be planning to invest in a bit of Dublin real estate.

The red-headed Frames frontman currently has a base in Celbridge and has been spending a lot of time in Prague, but no doubt a more appropriate trophy home for him, his Czech partner and their golden statue could be found?

Perhaps a little hideaway on Dublin's Riviera between Dalkey and Killiney where songwriters The Edge, Bono and Enya reside. Fellow Oscar winner Neil Jordan would also be on hand to exchange statue polishing techniques.

Pretty unlikely is the answer. There is no doubt that Hansard and Irglová are likely to make a good few bob from the Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly. The soundtrack to the film Oncehas just gone gold in the US and is likely to sell a million copies by the end of the year. That said, the award is not necessarily a goldmine and the duo are a long way away from the rockstar millionaire league.

More to the point, however, the plain speaking Hansard is unlikely to betray his roots. Raised in Ballymun and Killester, Hansard has been an outspoken critic of Celtic Tiger Ireland. In a recent interview in this paper he expressed his disbelief at how Ireland went from "not that far away from being a third-world country to being like pigs at the trough".

As recently as last Christmas, Hansard complained that despite having made "a bit of money" from the film he still could not afford a house in Dublin and admitted to be considering a move away from Ireland, presumably to a location where his Oscar bucks will go a bit further. Best of luck to them.

Choc horror as Dail sweet shop costs over €1 million

SOME DÁIL members were choking on their choccies when the new sweetie shop opened recently at parliament's Kildare Street entrance: just how much did the impressive structure cost?

The new "An Siopa" was designed by hotshot architects Bucholz McEvoy to mirror the classy entrance pavilion next door for which they won an award.

They also designed the entrance huts on the Merrion Square side as part of an overall commission from the OPW. All very well, but Olivia Mitchell TD, for one, wondered at the cost of such a glorious chocolate box, in light of the fact that it took about three years to build. "It is effectively a lean-to on a clear site so it is hard to know how it could take so long, especially since the OPW has experience in this area," she says. "It became a sort of joke in Leinster House, we felt the Taj Mahal took less time to build."

Having asked a question in the Dáil, she was told that while the final accounts had not been completed, it was reckoned that the new building cost €800,000 excluding VAT and internal fittings. Total cost then is like to be over €1 million.

The Siopa is roughly 40sq m (431sq ft) - the size of many a household extension. The latest Bruce Shaw Handbook says that shops are costing around €1,050-€1,600 to build per sq m. Really smart commercial buildings can cost up to €6,000 per sq m, according to an industry source. The Siopa is coming in at around €20,000 per sq m, which may not surprise many a homeowner whose extension ended up costing way over the builders and architects estimates.

No doubt the costs were eaten up by the impressive building materials, conservation studies and cutting-edge technology: and the fridges deemed necessary to keep chocolate from melting what with all that glass.

For really hot days, the building has sun visors, window defrosters and adjustable air nozzles.

As chocoholics know, you just can't put a price on well preserved confectionery.

Gormley's circular to send local authorities into a spin

THE CAT is going to be truly put among the pigeons by Environment Minister John Gormley's circular to the local authorities which gives them a deadline of June this year to update their policies in relation to taking housing estates in charge.

The minister wants the local authorities to meet their obligations and start maintaining non-gated housing estates around the country which will come as good news to many residents.

The rash of new estates built in the boom saw many of the local authorities wash their hands of them by insisting in the planning conditions that a management company be set up to maintain them.

This has caused mayhem in many estates with some residents refusing to pay their service charge on the basis that they shouldn't have to pay money for the upkeep of the grounds if the estate up the road is being maintained by the council for free.

The result is that many management companies go into the red and the estates become shabby around the edges.

But according to the Irish Home Builders' Association director Hubert Fitzpatrick this doesn't necessarily mean that residents can stop paying their charges. "If a management company has been set up, then charges are legally due," he says.

The current situation is that residents can request that the council take the estate in charge and if planning permission has expired for more than seven years.

Fitzpatrick says there are still situations where some sort of management company arrangement is needed, particularly where there is extensive landscaping which the councils generally won't take on.

Sales spring to life now that winter of discontent is over

AFTER A VERY long winter it looks as if that rarest of creatures, Buyer Hibernius, is coming out of hibernation at last. Estate agents in Dublin and the commuter belt are telling a similar story - busy viewings, firm offers and signed contracts. "Prices have bottomed out and people are starting to move," says Wade Wise, Savills HOK's residential director who has noticed an uplift in city centre apartments in particular.

The news homes market, with a lot of supply to get through, has seen stock begin to sell where builders have cut their prices and up their spec. Last weekend Savills HOK sold 65 out of 69 units at an apartment scheme in Churchtown called Hazelbrook, where one-beds were from €334,000. The builder also threw in an offer to pay buyers 4 per cent interest on their deposits, as the scheme is complete in two years.

Meanwhile, in Kilcock, Co Kildare last weekend Coonan Auctioneers sold 15 houses at Ryebridge between €270,000 and €355,000. In Ashbourne, Co Meath, Sherry FitzGerald New Homes had a busy weekend at Ashefield where the developer had upped the game in terms of fittings and fit-out. Sales agent Eoin O'Neill said first-timers were at last making "the right kind of noises". The same agent sold around 16 houses over the last month in a Durkan scheme, Silken Park in Citywest, where two-bed houses started at under the €350,000 mark. With price cuts now fairly universal, buyers are clearly getting themselves ready to sign on the dotted line.