In 2007, Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge was the sixth most expensive street in the world.
Over the years it has become something of a bellwether for commerce in the capital – reflecting the prevalence at different times of particular corporate and professional sectors.
Traditionally it was home to Dublin’s cultural elite, where established Dublin families from the legal, medical and retail world resided; then in the 1990’s there was a changing of the guard as properties changed hands into the ownership of tycoon developers and financiers.
Of the 30 properties on the road, considered to be the most prestigious address in the State, over half have sold since the economic downturn with most developers forced to sell up.
Prices have dropped by over two-thirds since 2002, and are still a long way off the vanity prices paid at the height of the boom. Walford is probably the property most synonymous with the boom and bust narrative; developer Sean Dunne paid €58m for at the height of the boom (the stamp duty alone added a further €5m to the price tag). It sold in 2016 for a greatly reduced €14 million. The purchaser is believed to be financier Dermot Desmond.
A similar property is Clonmore, home of prominent developer Paddy Kelly since the early 1990s. In 1987 Kelly purchased the neighbouring period property Clancool 'for several hundred thousand punts', and subsequently built Clonmore in the grounds in 1992.
The original site on which Cloncool stood stretched to a very generous 1.5 acres, an area that is now divided between the two houses. Clonmore was the first detached home to be built on the road in over a century with the exception of a modest bungalow – termed ‘a mistake’ by older residents.
In the 1990s the banks tried to force Kelly to sell one of his properties on Shrewsbury Road and he famously set a reserve of £800,000 on Clonmore – the new build – at auction, which at the time was four times the price of the last home sold on the road. It never sold and Kelly remained at Clonmore until 2010 when the market met its dramatic demise.
At the height of the boom Kelly’s wealth was estimated at €35 0million, but the sudden reversal of fortune left him with a debt of the same amount, netting a total loss of €700m.
Kelly, along with his brother, made his first fortune in the building boom of the 1960s. Sixty acres of land at Castletown estate proved pivotal after he purchased it for £35,000. Initially the site was refused planning permission by Kildare County Council but, after sitting tight, Kelly subsequently sold the land making a tidy profit of £175,000.
In the 1980s he left Ireland only returning when he saw signs of a recovery in the market, and from there his portfolio took off. Soon he became one of the biggest property developers in the State.
He purchased land in Sandyford, developed Smithfield market area and in the 1990’s diversified into building and running hotels, eventually selling his Comfort and Quality brands netting a personal profit of €14m.
Clonmore, designed by Horan Cotter and Associates stretches to 528sq m, and has until recently been rented by the Chinese ambassador to Ireland as his private residence.
The Chinese government recently purchased 38 Ailesbury Road and are merging it with next door – number 40 – which currently houses the Chinese Embassy. With the property now idle, receivers have placed Clonmore on the market through Lisney with an asking price of €10million.
Though in good condition and sitting on 0.7 of an acre with a floodlit tennis court, new owners may, like their neighbours, decide to demolish rather than refurbish the house.
Any buyer with access to the €10m offer price, will presumably have ample funds to build afresh or at least totally transform what now exists. There are however two magnificent towering Acers – overlooked by the principal bedroom – which should for sheer aesthetics be retained.
It's all very busy on this leafy suburban thoroughfare at the moment and, no doubt, established residents long to see an end to all the development. Shrewsbury House, the site of the old Belgian Embassy, owned by former Aryzta chief Owen Killian, has reportedly had €20m spent on its renovation, including a two storey basement with swimming pool.
Nearby, all that remains of Fintra, which sold in recent years for €8.45million, is its front façade. Other properties on the road, including those owned by businessman Denis O'Brien, Ardagh chief Paul Coulson and CapVest's Seamus Fitzpatrick have undergone significant refurbishments.
Shrewsbury Road is the most expensive street on the Irish edition of board game Monopoly. And in many ways it falls victim to the same vagaries as the popular board game, with chance, risk and a roll of the dice often dictating fortunes. Despite strategy and high profile assets, it’s never clear how the end game will pan out.
Kelly is now based in Donnybrook, and, perhaps clinging to the mantra of his late father that “you’ll never go hungry if you own a few acres”, he continues to throw the property dice, this time focusing in Canada.