Saturday 21 October 2017

The right moves: Dublin Airport ready for take-off thanks to series of major developments

Paul McNeive
Paul McNeive

Have you noticed the garden centre at Dublin Airport? I spotted it as I took in the spectacular view across the airport to Dublin Bay, from the top of ESB International's new office headquarters. The garden centre is where they cultivate the special grasses and plants used at the airport for repelling birds. It's just one example of the extraordinary level of activity going on at Europe's fastest growing airport, a 2,700 acre, 24/7 mini-city. Siobhan O'Donnell, Head of External Communications for Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) allowed me a look at the property aspects of this key piece of Ireland's infrastructure.

The scale of activity at the airport is amazing: home to over 250 businesses, 19,000 employees, a likely 30 million passengers this year, 1,500 buses and 3,500 taxis per day, its own police service, fire service and Garda station, 22,600 parking spaces and 80 tanker journeys through Dublin Port Tunnel every day, hauling aviation gas for thirsty jets. And all of this activity is increasing rapidly, as the airport deals with soaring passenger numbers and demand for airport-related services.

The property elements of all this are managed by a tight team of less than 10 DAA property managers. Central to their plans is 'Dublin Airport Central', a new office scheme of 41,700 sq m (448,855 sq ft) opposite Terminal 2. Katie Williams, Head of Commercial Property, and Brian Coppinger and Damian McCaffrey of the Dublin Airport Central project outlined the scheme as Lorcan Tyrrell, Head of Development, explained that airports worldwide are following an 'Airport City' model and that they plan to emulate the success of developments like Schipol Airport, Amsterdam.

Phase one of the scheme is four-, six- and seven-storey buildings, ranging from 8,200 sq m (88,264 sq ft) to 11,450 sq m (123,246 sq ft), with a pedestrian link to T2. DAA are assessing tenders for the first two buildings and hope to start construction this summer. The scheme is targeted at multinational-focused Irish businesses and international occupiers seeking a European hub location.

DAA can provide packages to occupiers, such as bundles of VIP lounge passes, membership of the airport sports complex, use of the airport conference facilities while airport hotels provide discounts to airport occupiers. Great attention is being paid to softening the environment and there will be outdoor street food markets and meeting places for employees. Joint agents Bannon and BNP Paribas are quoting rents of €370 per sq m. Last February, ESB International moved 550 staff into a beautiful refurbishment of the old Aer Lingus HQ of 8,300 sq m (89,340 sq ft) and are paying in the region of €295 per sq m.

On the retail side, DAA have 35 concession operations across T1 and T2 and directly operate some brands such as The Loop and the Guinness Store. DAA declined to comment on rents but most licensees pay a base rent plus a percentage of sales. DAA's Food and Beverage manager Brendan Dee told me that spaces in the terminals are tendered, either by granting concessions to individual operators, or there are 12 concessions to catering companies, who then grant franchises to other brands. Concessions are accompanied by service level agreements. DAA told me that, almost uniquely, they control prices by requiring operators to match their 'downtown' price.

Brendan Dee told me that they are reacting quickly to changing food trends, with an emphasis on fresh food. DAA report a great reaction to Marqette, the new food market at T1. This concession was recently won by an Irish operator. Most of Marqette's foods are sourced within 10 miles of the airport and passengers are lapping up the 450 freshly baked scones every morning. Concessions pay a percentage of their sales to DAA, depending on footfall and 'dwell time' in their location and the percentages are higher airside.

On the cargo side, DAA report that they have space available among their 70,000 sq m of buildings, with land available for more logistics buildings and hangars. Hotel space is expanding too, and DAA are tendering to operators a new 455-bed hotel to be built at the entrance to T2 by 2019.

While DAA say that they have sufficient terminal space for the foreseeable future, there are shortages of boarding gates, airbridges and runway space at peak times. This autumn, five new modular boarding gates will be created, accessed via a bus from T2.

I left the airport convinced that its development is in good hands. The sooner we have the third runway, a third terminal, and a rail link, the better.

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