With KBC Bank on course to close 11 of its 12 Irish retail branches by the end of this year, agent QRE Real Estate Advisers has been retained to manage the disposal of the bank’s commercial property portfolio.
As part of that process, the bank is seeking to assign the leasehold interest on its principal office in Dublin city centre. Extending to 70,000 sq ft, the subject property occupies a high-profile position at the junction of Sandwith Street Upper and Hogan Place. While the building has served as the headquarters of KBC Bank Ireland since 2004, it will be better known to older generations of Dubliners as Archer’s Garage.
According to local historian Donal Fallon’s “Come Here to Me!” blog, Archer’s Garage took its name from RW Archer, the first man to import Ford cars into Ireland. Archer enjoyed a lifelong love affair with cars which is said to have begun with his attendance at Dublin’s first motorcar show in the RDS in 1907. In1967, and at 90 years of age, Archer was still reportedly working three days a week in the garage.
Following its unauthorised demolition by a developer in 1999, a replica of the Sandwith Street building was constructed in 2004. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage describes the original structure, built in 1946 to the designs of Arnold Hendy, as “a memorable building in the International style, employing Art Deco devices”, before adding that “the reconstruction faithfully replicates the original building and thus memorialises a historic landmark.”
QRE’s managing director Conor Whelan says that while KBC is looking to exit the Dublin 2 landmark, it will continue to occupy a reduced footprint there for a period of time. As of now, QRE is offering fully fitted serviced office suites at the building, now known as The Forecourt, ranging in size from 4,000 sq ft to 30,000 sq ft on flexible lease terms. An assignment of the entire 70,000 sq ft will also be considered, with KBC remaining in part occupation.
KBC recently completed the disposal of its leasehold interest in Irish Life’s recently upgraded 19-22 City Quay scheme. The subject property briefly comprised 33,000 sq ft of fully fitted grade A office accommodation and was taken on by technology company Merative, known previously as IBM Watson Health. Deirdre Carr of CBRE advised Merative, while Conor Whelan and David O’Malley of QRE advised KBC Bank.
Outside of its main office premises in Dublin’s central business district, KBC holds leases on 12 retail branches across the country, with 11 of these scheduled to close permanently in 2023 as part of the bank’s withdrawal from the Irish market.
These branches or “hubs” include Galway, Limerick, Wilton Shopping Centre Cork, Waterford, Maynooth, Main Street Swords, Blanchardstown Shopping Centre, College Green Dublin, Baggot Street Dublin and Stillorgan. Brian Kelly of QRE is handling the retail element of this project.
All other inquires relating to the KBC portfolio should be directed to Conor Whelan and David O’Malley at QRE.