Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council has rejected a proposal from $5 billion US children's entertainment giant Hasbro to bring "Hollywood production" to the Dublin suburb with a studio in the old Stena Line terminal.
The US company submitted a joint expression of interest for the vacant building, which has lain unused since 2015, along with Irish animation studio Boulder Media, which it purchased in 2016.
According to the tender document submitted by the pair, the project would see “a truly unique studio and academic facility with stand-out identity and world-wide appeal. Hollywood production would truly be happening in the centre of Dún Laoghaire – with regularity”.
The tender, which has been seen by The Irish Times, states that the studio would house 350-400 crew and management “from day 1, rising to 650”. It continues: “Local spend of our highly skilled, higher earning creative and media professionals would also be very considerable.”
Hasbro is planning to use Boulder Media for a number of theatrical released movies on a long-term repeating cycle, which would support a €5 million investment in bringing the existing building up to standard.
“Our proposed facility would be a celebration of learning, hard-work, opportunity, success and outstanding achievement,” according to the tender. “We believe it would become a globally recognised hub, offering unparalleled opportunities for artists, students and media professionals.”
The ferry terminal was due to be converted into a hub for high-tech start-up companies, but late last year the backers of that proposal pulled out, citing difficulties with obtaining a foreshore license for the project. It later emerged that the two investors behind the scheme had fallen out.
Latterly, the local authority announced a tender competition for the site, inviting expressions of interest. However, Lisney’s, the estate agent contracted by the local authority, wrote to the Hasbro/Boulder Media bidders in early April stating that it had not provided specific bank and funding details that were requested, and also that it would require a new grant of planning permission if it were to proceed.
Therefore, it was determined that the application was not within the scope of the request for expressions of interest. “For the moment the council will be proceeding to interview a number of parties and we will let you know if there is any change in approach in the future.”
Richard Boyd Barrett, the Solidarity-People Before Profit TD for the area, said he was angry that proposals were being rejected by the council without being put to the public. "We want the public and their elected representatives to be able to assess the community benefit of any and all proposals for Dún Laoghaire harbour," he said.
“There’s no way any one proposal should be ruled out of hand,” he said. “All proposals should be assessed in an open, transparent and democratic way.” He said he could not understand “the idea that we are restricted very narrowly to the existing planning permission”.
It is understood that interviews with potential occupants of the building, not including Hasbro/Boulder Media, have been held, and the council is considering the various approaches. The final decision must be ratified by a vote of the county council.
The national film school in IADT Dún Laoghaire contributed a submission in support of the project. The school has a long-standing relationship with Boulder Media, which takes on a number of graduates every year and delivers master classes to its undergraduates.
Its submission traces the animation industry in Dún Laoghaire back to the late 1980s, stating that the proposal “is a natural extension of that heritage and one we fully endorse and support”. “It would also be an exciting development for the town, placing it almost overnight at the centre of a boom for this creative industry”. Under the proposal, Boulder Media would take a 10-year lease and potentially sub-let a smaller area to IADT.
Lisney said it could not comment on an ongoing process, as did the local authority. Boulder Media did not respond to a request for comment.