Dominican nuns sold their former convent in Donnybrook to property developers in a deal that potentially put a “conservative” €20 million valuation on the Dublin 4 site.
The transaction last year has come to light in a planning submission to Dublin City Council by the new owners of the 1.19-hectare property off Marlborough Road, who want it zoned for housing in what would be considered a prime location.
The Muckross Park House site is next to and shares an entrance with Muckross Park College, one of the best known secondary schools for girls in the south city. The last remaining nuns left the site three years ago, ending their presence for 120 years on property the Dominicans acquired in 1900 for £4,000.
Muckross Park House and its surrounding lands are now owned by a company, Reilly Lands 2012 SPV, whose directors Gerald McGreevy and Seán McGreevy are based in Co Down.
Neither the directors nor the Congregation of Dominican Sisters replied to calls from The Irish Times. But the sale was set out in a letter to Seán McGreevy from Sr Martina Phelan, prioress of the congregation, included in the company’s recent submission to the city council on its draft development plan.
“We closed the convent in 2019, on foot of a health [and] safety report, with the institutional use ceasing at that point and we then sold the property to you in 2021, for alternative uses,” said the letter signed by Sr Martina Phelan on February 11th.
“I can confirm on behalf of the order that the subject property, comprising the former Dominican convent at Muckross Park House, Marlborough Road, is no longer required by the Dominican Sisters for the purposes of our functions and mission.”
According to a senior professional in the property sector, current valuations put a potential price of “€20 million-plus” on the site even without residential zoning. The site of almost 1.2 hectares extends to some 2.94 acres, and such property has fetched between €5 million and €7 million per acre in recent times.
In its submission to the council, Reilly Lands 2012 SPV said the proposed “community and social infrastructure” zoning on the site was “no longer appropriate” and called for “residential neighbourhoods” zoning instead. “This would allow for an integrated residential development with ample public open space for a well-located site that complies with relevant compact development and brownfield development objectives.”
The company is a subsidiary of McGreevy Investment Holdings Ltd of Dundalk, Co Louth, whose ultimate controlling party is Gerald McGreevy. The parent company had retained earnings of €37.6 million in November 2020, according to its most recent accounts.
In a surging property market, the Muckross Park deal is another example of a Catholic religious order selling off valuable real estate in its ownership for generations. As priests, nuns and brothers age and vocations decline, the Jesuit and Carmelite orders as well as the Spiritan congregation and the Order of St Augustine have been linked to multimillion-euro land sales.
Church bodies have long ranked among the largest and most sophisticated real estate owners in Ireland, with extensive holdings throughout the State. Although the disposal of church lands has been a feature of the sector for decades, sales in recent years have coincided with rising valuations as the housing market goes through another boom.