Give Me a Crash Course In . . . Longboat Quay

Dublin Fire Brigade says safety defects at the dockland apartment complex must be fixed without delay – at an estimated cost of €4m

Longboat Quay: residents currently face a €2 million share of the repair bill; they hope Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Nama will cover the full cost. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

Longboat Quay: residents currently face a €2 million share of the repair bill; they hope Dublin Docklands Development Authority and Nama will cover the full cost. Photograph: Dara Mac Donaill

 

Longboat Quay, where is that? In Dublin’s east end, on the south bank of the River Liffey. Longboat Quay is not itself one of the river’s quays; it’s a complex of almost 300 apartments on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, built in 2006.

Why is it in the news? Dublin Fire Brigade this week decided that unresolved fire-safety defects with the building had to be fixed without delay and that failure to set out dates and a plan to complete the work could result in almost 900 people being evacuated from their homes.

What sort of the fire-safety defects? Initially problems were found with the fire alarm, in both the common areas and individual apartments. These problems were resolved earlier this year, at a cost of just over €1 million, but more serious structural problems remain. These include insufficient fire-stopping material in the walls. The building needs to be further “compartmentalised”, which involves the construction of fire and smoke barriers between apartments, to give occupants more time to escape in the event of a fire.

Fire-safety defects? Evacuation? This is starting to sound a lot like Priory Hall The defects detected are similar but were more severe at Priory Hall, the north Dublin complex of almost 200 apartments built by Thomas McFeely and evacuated in 2011 because of the fire risks posed to residents. In that case, however, the complex was evacuated on the orders of a High Court judge, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, after McFeely failed to comply with a schedule of remedial works agreed with Dublin City Council. The council is now rebuilding the estate at a cost of more than €27 million; residents have had the mortgages on their homes wiped clean and been allowed to start again.

Fewer than 200 apartments and it’s costing €27 million! How much is this one going to cost? Nowhere near as much, but still a considerable amount. The work at Longboat Quay has yet to go to tender, but it has been estimated at about €4 million. The main reason Priory Hall cost so much to repair is that the years of legal wrangling that followed the evacuation meant the empty building went to rack and ruin, and the council had to almost demolish the complex and start from scratch.

So is Longboat Quay another McFeely special? No, this one was built by Bernard McNamara.

That name sounds familiar McNamara was among the biggest of the big cheeses of the property-boom years. He was central player in the €400 million purchase of the Irish Glass Bottle site, in Dublin’s docklands, and was also the developer into whose basket Dublin City Council put all its eggs when it came to regenerating social housing. Five public-private partnership deals with the developer collapsed in 2008. If O’Devaney Gardens and St Michael’s Estate ring a bell, they were to have been McNamara jobs.

So is McNamara going to foot the bill? Unlikely. The company that built Longboat Quay, Gendsong, went into receivership.

So who is going to pay it? Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) and Nama have offered to share some of the burden, although their offer would still leave residents with a bill of about €2 million – maybe more. Residents aren’t happy to take this offer, and are still hoping it will be improved.

Why are DDDA and Nama in the frame? DDDA has ownership of common areas and also has an interest in 37 apartments that were bought under the affordable-housing scheme. The receiver, Peter Coyne of Duff & Phelps, is being funded by Nama in relation to 18 apartments in the scheme.

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