Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council will seek new expressions of interest for the former Stena Line ferry terminal site after a €20 million plan to convert it into a technology hub stalled late last year.
“Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown will be seeking expressions of interest for the development of the ferry terminal building in the next few weeks. Information sought will include production of a robust business plan and adequate proof of funding for the first three years of the project,” a spokeswoman for the local authority told The Irish Times.
The council is seeking expressions from consortiums, businesses, commercial interests, entrepreneurs or other individuals who will "develop and manage the property and offer space to the business sector while providing a positive economic impact for Dún Laoghaire town".
Estate agent Lisney has been appointed to find an occupier. The building has a 10-year planning permission with an option to extend for a further period of five years.
Investor Philip Gannon had been leading a plan to transform the empty terminal into a 7,000 square metre digital hub, but last October pulled out of the project. Mr Gannon terminated his lease on the site after issues emerged over the lack of a foreshore licence needed to develop the property correctly.
The technology investor Ian Lucey had also been involved in the project to develop the terminal, but relations between him and Mr Gannon broke down some time ago. Mr Lucey has expressed an interest in continuing to be involved in the development if possible.
Local politicians welcomed news the project will move ahead. Fine Gael councillor Barry Ward said the harbour innovation campus was “an extremely important project for Dún Laoghaire town and the wider area”.
“It is regrettable that the council’s obligations mean that what would now be open and operating, will now only open later this year. While procurement procedures will slow the opening of this exciting space, it is encouraging that it will still happen and I look forward to the opportunities it will bring.”
Other potential developers of the project include former Topaz chief executive Emmet O’Neill, who wrote to the several councillors before Christmas outlining his interest in continuing the scheme.
In his letter, Mr O’Neill, who is the nephew of businessman Denis O’Brien, wrote that he had “watched with interest and displeasure” the unravelling of the plan for the terminal. He wrote that “it is a shame that this has not progressed and would be a huge economic and social benefit to Dún Laoghaire and the surrounding area”.
Mr O’Neill had initially offered to pick up the project from where it had previously collapsed, offering to step into the shoes of the former developers and commence the project within 30 days. He also made an offer to purchase the building. It is thought that Mr O’Neill remains interested in the possibility of participating in the call for expressions of interest.
The original plan would have seen the interior of the landmark building totally transformed, with the former arrivals hall, baggage hall, departure lounge and ticket office buildings redesigned. It was intended that start-ups would be offered space based on a membership charge per person.