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Back in the big time: Ronan gets to work on €600m site


He's back: Johnny Ronan will develop over one million sq ft of land at Spencer Place
Photo: David Conachy

He's back: Johnny Ronan will develop over one million sq ft of land at Spencer Place Photo: David Conachy

He's back: Johnny Ronan will develop over one million sq ft of land at Spencer Place Photo: David Conachy

High-profile developer Johnny Ronan has signed off on a €600m deal to begin his latest development on Dublin city's Spencer Dock this weekend.

As part of the ambitious plans, Ronan will develop over one million square feet, which will include four office complexes totalling over 550,000 sq ft; a four-star hotel, a five-star hotel and a major apartment complex for 165 new homes on the landmark six-acre site.

It is the biggest property development in Dublin since the crash.

The development called 'Spencer Place' will also include several restaurants and retail outlets. In addition, the developer's team is examining the feasibility of building a 1,000-bed student accommodation campus.

With backing from US investment giant Colony Capital and tech investment guru Tom Morrisroe, Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) had previously been named as the preferred bidder on the site beating off competition from Hines, Ballymore, Galliard, Oxley and New Generation Homes.

This weekend the deal went through - at a cost to investors of €43m. The developer signed on Friday afternoon and workmen immediately moved into the site which had lain vacant for five years.

Mr Ronan may feel vindicated by his return to the docklands having previously built Dublin's Convention Centre, the adjoining Spencer Dock apartments and the PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) Building along the waterfront.

In London, Apple also announced that it is to create its spectacular new UK headquarters at Treasury Holding's former Battersea Power Station - which Nama sold for just €600m at what was considered the bottom of the market.

At the time developer Paddy McKillen, said: "The site was sold for a steal." It is now expected to generate profits of up to €10bn and Apple's announcement has been hailed as a "massive coup" for the current owners.

The tech giant will move 1,400 staff from eight sites around the UK capital into what it calls "a new Apple campus" at the iconic power station which remains a listed building. Its employees will occupy all six floors of office space in the brick 'cathedral of power'.

This weekend, a source told the Sunday Independent: "Naturally Johnny is delighted to finally get back to work on Spencer Dock but it obviously stung when news emerged of Apple's plans to relocate to Battersea.

When you think about it: people are upset that the Irish taxpayer lost a reported €440m over the controversial sale of Project Eagle. And rightly so. But the premature sale of Battersea has cost the taxpayer several billion. It's staggering."

Last year, in his written statement to the banking inquiry, Mr Ronan - who was the only major developer to pay back all his loans 'at par' - meaning Nama and the State have not lost money - claimed that Nama had destroyed his then business, Treasury Holdings.

Mr Ronan said it was his belief that individuals in the State's bad bank were prejudicial towards the company, which he once ran with Richard Barrett.

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He also added it was his belief that they made a decision to "take it down, whatever the consequence and regardless of the cost to the taxpayer".

Mr Ronan also criticised government officials and claimed they "deferred to Nama, refused to meet us or get involved".

This weekend, speaking to the Sunday Independent Shane Whelan, RGRE's Development Director said: "Ronan Group are delighted to have completed the acquisition of reacquiring the undeveloped land in Spencer Dock, which we see as unfinished business, having delivered the PwC headquarters and a number of other buildings on the site several years ago. We now intend to deliver on one million square feet of a prime mixed use scheme."

Construction at Spencer Place will create more than 1,000 jobs, while the new office space will accommodate over 5,000 employees. It will be located on what will be the best transport hub in the city.

The Dart's new underground headquarters will be located at the site, which will also link up to the Luas line, connecting it to Busarus, Connolly and Heuston train stations.

Ronan has already made an audacious bid to attract businesses seeking to relocate from London to Dublin in the wake of the UK's Brexit decision.

While others within the property industry have adopted a 'wait and see' approach on the potential influx to the capital of firms from London and elsewhere, Ronan, working closely with the IDA, has publicly declared the determination of his company, RGRE, to woo tenants.

In a full page advertisement, which the company recently took out in the UK's Property Week, the headline read: "Yes… Dublin is c alling."

The advert was Ronan's humorous play on the wording of the BBC World Service's wartime 'this is London calling' radio intro, which it used in broadcasts to occupied countries.

It has already delivered early dividends, with numerous inquiries coming from the UK in relation to the company's Dublin development portfolio.

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