Friday 30 September 2016

The right moves: Molesworth Street is reborn

Paul McNeive

Published 16/06/2016 | 02:30

People queued outside the Passport Office on Molesworth Street in Dublin. Photo: PA
People queued outside the Passport Office on Molesworth Street in Dublin. Photo: PA

This is what it must have felt like to emerge from an air raid shelter in London, to find that entire streets have disappeared.

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Having worked in Molesworth Street for thirty years, it is a surreal experience to stand there now and take in the new views, as whole blocks have been demolished. It's the start of a new era for a street whose history tells a tale of Irish society, property and life.

Molesworth Street is-one of the most important streets in Dublin, yet many people don't know where it is-until you tell them that "that's where the passport office used to be". A beautifully proportioned Georgian streetscape, elegantly framed by Leinster House at one end and originally at the other by the Royal Hibernian Hotel. Always an upmarket location, favoured by embassies, government offices, art galleries and estate agents, Molesworth Street played quite a role in my life.

My Mother's first job in Dublin was in a wine merchants opposite Buswells Hotel. Every day, she told us, they were visited by a handful of politicians, for a quick brandy. Closer to Dawson Street, there used to be a pub, and that's where my father proposed to her. Little did they know that 19 years later, their first born would start work across the street at Number 32, at what was then Osborne King and Megran (OKM).

In 1979 trainee auctioneers entered an apprentice type system and my first year was spent printing brochures in the enormous basement, which stretches under the footpath. Two generations of caretakers raised their families in the top floor flat and it always raised a smile to see the children trudging up the many steps with their schoolbags. Directly opposite was Hamilton and Hamilton and they merged with OKM in the 80s to form Hamilton Osborne King (HOK, now Savills.) The Registry Office was at number 31 and HOK staff were regularly called on to act as witnesses at marriage ceremonies. Closer to home, at least five office romances from number 32 developed into new families.

Every deal, retirement and promotion was celebrated in Buswells Hotel, where that era's political drinkers were fixtures. Originally "The Queens Institute for the Training and Employment of Educated Women," Buswells, a hotel since 1880, was bought by The Sean Quinn Group and is now successfully run by a Receiver. Long a centrepiece of Irish politics, TV news pieces are broadcast from the front steps and many a political heave was plotted in the shadows of the bar.

Savills moved next door to number 33, (where the basement houses a gymnasium for staff) and 32 became the first to be demolished and rebuilt in this new wave of development. The new building at "Number 32" will provide approximately 3,000 sq m of offices and is being developed by Green Reit.

On the corner opposite, the large block occupied for decades by JLL and the Passport Office has disappeared and is being redeveloped by IPUT. The new seven storey building will provide approximately 11,500 sq m of office space.

The street has been affected by the new fashion of naming buildings by their postal address and on the Dawson Street corner, "One Molesworth Street" is being built on the site once occupied by Royal Sun Alliance. This building, also by Green Reit will provide 7,200 sq m of offices. Opposite that, the former European Commission building, "40 Molesworth Street" is also being redeveloped by IPUT, to provide another 3,000 sq m.

These developers have got their timing right, and in keeping with the "up market" nature of the location, you can expect to see Dublin's highest office rent established here, well in excess of €600 per sq m. Staff working here will love the central location and occupiers will learn to live with the regular protest marches along the street to Leinster House, and the Garda know how to keep traffic flowing.

None of the new schemes incorporates residential accommodation and it's a pity that no-one lives on Molesworth Street anymore. In December 2014, a homeless man, Jonathan Corrie, died in a Molesworth Street doorway, outside Dail Eireann. Jolted into life by the defibrillator of embarrassment, politicians made speeches, went on soup runs and made a mess of trying to build 22 modular houses. Nothing changed.

The new buildings will bring 750 new people into Molesworth Street every day. There will be deals, romances, celebrations and deaths. Life moves on.

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