Priory Hall refurbishment bill likely to exceed €36.4m

Cost of reconstruction of Dublin fire-trap apartment complex was originally €10m

The Priory Hall complex pictured last August: the council this year refurbished the first 60 apartments. Photograph: Alan Betson

The Priory Hall complex pictured last August: the council this year refurbished the first 60 apartments. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The cost of the redevelopment of Priory Hall, the notorious fire-trap apartment complex in north Dublin, is expected to exceed €36 million, €26 million more than planned.

The State is likely to be left at a substantial loss on the project, with sales of the refurbished apartments in the development – built in 2007 by former IRA hunger striker Tom McFeely – unlikely to exceed €21 million.

The €36.4 million price tag does not include the costs of apartment rents and hotel bills for residents evacuated form the complex by order of the High Court in 2011, the costs of security in the years in which the complex was vacant, the purchase of apartments formerly owned by Mr McFeely, or Dublin City Council’s legal fees. Collectively these costs add more than another €5 million to the bill.

In 2013 the council agreed to take over the complex and refurbish it at a cost of €10 million. However, when work began in mid-2014 it emerged far more extensive reconstruction was needed, including the removal of foundations containing the structurally-damaging mineral pyrite, and costs rose to €27 million.

New name

New figures show that the cost is now expected to reach €36.4 million. The council has so far spent €13.8 million on refurbishment. It plans to spend another €22.6 million to complete the work.

The council this year completed work on the first 60 refurbished apartments, 43 of which went on sale last month under the name New Priory, and have made a total of €7.3 million, with sales agreed on all within days of viewing.

Some 120 more apartments will be refurbished in the complex. City councillors last September agreed to increase the number of apartments which must be retained for social housing in the scheme from 20 per cent to 30 per cent, and there are also a number of apartments which must be returned to owner-occupiers.

The agreed increase in social housing numbers could not be facilitated in the first phase of 60 homes, so it is likely that the next phase of 120 homes will have proportionally more social housing, limiting the number of homes that will be available for sale.

Moratorium

Under the 2013 deal banks agreed to write off debts of 62 owner-occupiers at the complex and 25 buy-to-let owners were given a moratorium on mortgage payments.

The council plans to sell the 62 apartments that were owner-occupied, as well as 65 apartments that were owned by Mr McFeely and were subsequently taken over by the Irish Bank Resolution Corporation (IBRC).

The council then bought the latter apartments from the IBRC for an average of €15,000 each.

The council had owned 35 apartments in the complex, and these will remain as social housing, while the buy-to-let investors will be handed back the remaining 25 apartments once complete.