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Ashford Castle owner seeks €25m for landmark Hatch Hall

Red Carnation abandons plan for 60-bedroom boutique hotel in Dublin on site of former student residence

A long-standing plan to deliver a five-star boutique hotel at Hatch Hall, the former university residence hall on Hatch Street, Dublin 2, is set to be delayed further following the decision by its owners to sell the property.

Just six months after it secured planning permission from An Bord Pleanála to convert and extend the Victorian building into a 60-bedroom hotel, Ashford Castle owners, Red Carnation Hotels, has instructed agent CBRE to offer it for sale.

While the price being sought has not been disclosed, The Irish Times understands that John Hughes of CBRE’s hotels division is seeking offers in the region of €25 million – €5 million more than Red Carnation paid in 2019 to secure ownership of the property without its current planning permission.

Contacted for comment on his company’s move to sell Hatch Hall, Niall Rochford, general manager of Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle, said: “The vision for Hatch Hall belonged to the late founder and chairman of Red Carnation, Stanley Tollman and his sad passing in 2021 has greatly influenced the decision.”

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“The focus for Red Carnation will be investing in its properties across the world including its two hotels in Ireland, Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford in Cong, Co Mayo. The company will undertake a capital expenditure programme, upgrading and refurbishing hotels within its portfolio.”

Designed by architect Charles Powell, Hatch Hall was built for the Jesuit order in 1912 to provide accommodation for 70 students attending University College Dublin’s original campus at nearby Earlsfort Terrace.

In 2004, the property was acquired for €16 million by Gerry Barrett’s Edward Holdings. While the Galway-based developer secured permission from Dublin City Council to transform the building into an 81-bedroom hotel, the plan was later shot down by An Bord Pleanála. And although Mr Barrett subsequently secured approval to convert the building into 36 apartments, that plan fell by the wayside.

The property had, before its sale to Red Carnation, been used by its previous owners, East Coast Catering Ireland Ltd, as a direct provision centre to house asylum seekers for the Department of Justice. East Coast acquired Hatch Hall after Mr Barrett put it up for sale in 2011 for just €6 million as part of his efforts to pay down Edward Holdings’ debt to Nama.

Red Carnation acquired Hatch Hall in 2019 and had intended that it would act as a complement in the capital to its other Irish hotels, the five-star Ashford Castle Hotel and The Lodge at Ashford in Co Mayo.

Red Carnation Hotels purchased Ashford Castle and its 365-acre estate from Mr Barrett for €20 million in 2013. The South African-headquartered company secured the property ahead of a number of rival bidders after the developer put it into receivership. But while Red Carnation’s acquisition of Ashford Castle secured all 160 jobs at the resort and allowed the business to continue trading, it also served to crystallise a significant loss for Mr Barrett on his original investment. The Galway businessman had paid €50 million in 2008 to buy the property overlooking Lough Corrib from a group of Irish-American investors.

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Acting Property Editor of The Irish Times