Sunday 23 July 2017

Bidding on RTE land goes over €80m in first round

Second-round bids for the RTE Project Montrose lands are due next Thursday
Second-round bids for the RTE Project Montrose lands are due next Thursday
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

The first round of bidding on the 8.64 acres of land being sold by RTE at its Donnybrook campus has seen the €75m guide price set by Savills eclipsed already. The Irish Independent understands, however, that just one of the five parties competing for the Project Montrose portfolio has so far offered to pay in excess of €80m for the lands.

While that situation is expected to change with the submission next Thursday of the second round of offers, a source familiar with the matter said they would be surprised if the Dublin 4 site secured the €90m which has been speculated on since it was brought to the market in March.

The source did not rule out the possibility, however, of one of the bidders making a 'wildcard' offer in the second round that the other parties would not be prepared to counter.

As it stands, Chartered Land chief Joe O'Reilly, Cork developer Michael O'Flynn, Richard Barrett's Bartra Capital, Cairn Homes and developers Bridgedale are all in the running for the lands, which are widely acknowledged as being located in one of the most sought-after residential locations in the capital.

While the RTE site doesn't have planning permission for residential development, it is being sold with a detailed feasibility study for a high-quality housing scheme, designed by leading architecture practice O'Mahony Pike Architects. According to it, the lands have the capacity to accommodate up to 500 units comprising a mix of up to 20 high-value houses and approximately 500 apartments - subject to the necessary planning permission being obtained.

The proceeds from the sale of 'Project Montrose' are to be used by RTE to reinvest in a new editorial structure that will see the broadcaster's news and current affairs division retained as a stand-alone division but see other areas such as TV, Radio and Digital consolidated in whole or in part to serve an "all content" strategy.

RTE's decision to dispose of just over a quarter of its 32.12 acre campus came following detailed considerations by its management in late 2015.

It is understood that the most lucrative option of selling the Montrose lands in their entirety and moving from Donnybrook to a new location was specifically ruled out by RTE's management. Referring to the broadcaster's seeming refusal to countenance the prospect, a source familiar with the matter cited the "serious difficulties" the relocation of RTE's TV studios would present.

That argument has been roundly dismissed by a number of figures within the property industry, however, with suggestions that RTE should consider relocating to an alternative and less costly site either within the capital or on its periphery.

While one source referred to the example set by TV3 in locating its studios at Westgate Business Park in Ballymount next to the M50 motorway, another source suggested that RTE might consider the role it could play in the regeneration of Dublin's north inner city by relocating to a site there.

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