The Five Hottest...Apartment blocks that rock
ALL summer long, there were ordered queues of smart punters outside the newly opened Marker Hotel in Dublin's Docklands – all waiting for access to the privileged heights of its Rooftop Bar, the capital's new hotspot to be seen in.
Advance bookings for access were regularly required from the milling multinational multitudes from Google, Facebook Twitter and LinkedIn – from the ranks of German and Italian IFSC bankers and from the wealthy young Irish lawyers from the big docklands-based law outfits.
Upstairs above the city, as the rest of us fretted about austerity and the coming Budget, the united nations of recession-proof enterprises sipped mojitos and manhattans through the balmy evenings and looked out over the water and the remarkable landscape vista of international architecture which has sprung up here without anyone really noticing.
The shiny new troika lined up at dusk can truly take your breath away – the neon banded barrel of the national conference centre by Kevin Roche, the swept glazed triangles of the Libeskind Bord Gais Theatre and now the recently completed checkerboard Marker Hotel itself by Manuel Aires Mateus.
Two conceived in New York, one in Buenos Aires. Most struggled into existence. Now they are Dublin's new postcard/poster shot for the modern age.
A Jones Lang Lasalle report published last week claimed that the opening of the checkerboard-fronted Marker Hotel was the clear signal that Dublin's Docklands, – sputtering and limping through the last five years – had at last reached a critical mass.
Now we have our Manhattan – our La Defense.
It's not just the latest new spots that are prospering. The old Slattery's Bar, which has been here forever, has bought three adjoining houses and broken them into one another.
It will soon use them to open an extension which will more than double the pub's size – the nearby supermarket, has already extended its floor space five fold. This Grand Canal Basin has become a net attractor of revellers from traditional Dublin night spots.
They swarm in by day for the conferences and by night for the theatre and the trendy restaurants and wine bars. The workforce of the world's biggest digital companies mill about here daily and now they live here too – in the shiny new Celtic Tiger era apartment blocks that stand around peering into the basin on one side and into the Liffey on the other. Google and Facebook at Barrow Street were vital and the rest followed.
But the most recent arrivals since the start of this year are Asian businessmen from China, Malaysia and Singapore bearing pots of cash and buying up the surrounding apartments which the multinational techies like to rent.
"These people are pure investors, they have no links or attachments to this area," says Barry Connolly of Sherry FitzGerald's docklands office.
He estimates that the Asian buyers now make up around 10pc of purchasers overall in the docks, with foreign buyers now accounting for 40pc of purchases.
He says investors overall have accounted for more than 80pc of purchases in the area in 2013 and, remarkably, that 90pc of the buyers since January have been paying with cash.
The lift in demand has meant that prices have increased (by the estimates of the local estate agents) by about 20pc since the start of the year – around 5pc ahead of increases experienced in the capital overall.
Agents estimate that the very best apartments (the two-floor penthouses at Hanover Quay Dock are now worth between €1m and €1.3m while the "good" two beds in the better blocks are all seeing their values edging over the €500,000 marker, €100,000 more than right after the crash.
Rents around here are now typically ranged from €2,000 to €3,000 per month and rising for a good 1,000 sq ft two-bed with views over the water – substantially stronger than semis in good Dublin suburbs. The top rent, for a penthouse at the basin is now €4,000 per month and the lowest yields are running at 5pc to 6pc – possibly the lowest in Ireland today.
Contrary to popular belief and despite the problems and assorted bankruptcies of the area's various developers, demand has always been strong for rentals in the main Basin blocks.
Of the few owner-occupiers who buy (10pc to 20pc), most are from the tech companies who have arrived in Ireland for four- and five-year contracts.
"They have decided it is cheaper to buy than to rent and they want to live near where they work," says Connolly.
Eithne Butler, who runs Dialashortlet.ie, takes care of many of the high-end apartment rentals in the area. She first moved to live in this area in 1996 and says the new buzz is palpable.
"I have a waiting list of more than 40 individuals who specifically want an apartment in the Basin area.
"We are looking for apartment in all of the big blocks here. The tenants we get are mostly foreign executives arriving here – they're usually single, well-off and in their twenties and thirties. The problem now is that we have no supply."
The result is that the most sought after apartment schemes in all of Ireland are now located within a stone's throw of each other.
Here's your guide to the blocks that rock – in order of esteem and cache:
1. The Millennium Tower – Estimated Penthouse Value €1m
As the name suggests, it was built almost 14 years ago by Zoe Developments, The form of the building is definitely not everyone's cup of tea, but the views from the upper floor are simply unmatched anywhere in Dublin.
At 17 floors high – one was added since its completion – this is Dublin's tallest residential building bar none.
Not only does it stand as a sentinel over the Canal Basin, its upper reaches have 360 degree views that can peer to the sea, the hills and even into other counties on a clear day.
The penthouse at the Millennium Tower, which comprises of the top two floors, was sold in the summer for €802,000.
Within weeks, it was let to a new tenant for just short of €4,000 per month through the letting wing of Owen Reilly Estate Agents.
Barry Connolly of Sherry FitzGerald which sold the apartment, estimates that it could make more than a million euros today.
2. The Marker Residences – Estimated top Value €550,000
The Marker Hotel, which Brehon Capital Partners, in a joint venture with Midwest Holding, acquired in December 2011, is the area's bright new venue.
The blocks of "residences" – the luxury apartments attached to them – are regarded as being the swishest abodes. "The big cheeses from the big FDI's live here while the drones tend to rent in the surrounding blocks. The cache is that people can say they're practically living in the hotel," says one agent with sales experience in the area.
The two-bedroom Marker Residences are "pet friendly" and include a deal for the exclusive hotel gym deal and access to the trendy rooftop bar as well as meal and drinks services.
Contemporarily designed and averaging about 1,000 sq ft, they rent at €2,350 per month with a parking space and €2,200 without, according to Angela McCabe of Owen Reilly Estate Agents, which sells and lets many of the swisher apartments in the area.
These apartments have not ever been offered for sale individually.
3. Hanover Dock – Estimated Penthouse Value: €1.3m
The Edge owns the two-floor duplex penthouse in one of these blocks and as the area's most spacious penthouses, these are estimated to be the most valuable of the Basin's abodes – now estimated to be worth €1.5m in the current market.
Two-beds which were selling in the €350,000 range six months ago are now being touted at €395,000. Launched in 2005 and built by Sisk and Park Developments, the garden is that year's Chelsea Flow Show silver gilt winning design by Diarmuid Gavin, transported Celtic Tiger-style back to Dublin. The blocks run in four to seven storeys around it.
The views are the strong point with apartments on one side overlooking the Liffey and into the Basin on the other.
4. Alto Vetro – Estimated top Value €1m
"Live the High Life" was the marketing slogan for Alto Vetro, a landmark tall and thin block designed by Shay Cleary and commissioned by Treasury Holdings for completion in 2009.
Best known for its height (at 16 floors, it's Dublin's second highest residential building), it's remarkably slim profile and the fact that the balconies poke out like "pockets."
The 26 apartments, for which there is a large tenant waiting list, were subject to receivership and sold to Kennedy Wilson.
The block was valued at €15m at market peak and is believed to have been sold for close to €11m. They come with five-star fit-out, floor to ceiling windows to avail of the views, balconies which can be "enclosed" in sliding steel shutters.
Most are two bedroom but the two "triplex" penthouses with three bedrooms apiece are rented at €3,000 per month.
5. The Gasworks – Estimated Penthouse value: €500,000
The conversion of the Victorian Gasometer (also owned by Kennedy Wilson) is among the most favoured apartment blocks among the Googlers who absolutely adore its odd internal pizza pie dimensions – which often aren't entirely the most practical but have spades of character.
The curving apartments feature fly by metal pipes and girders to the "back" which is on the outside and front entrances on curved terraces.
The three-bedroom units let for €2,500 per month.