Wednesday 21 February 2018

Ballymore looks up with City Island plan

Balymore's latest development City Island in London
Balymore's latest development City Island in London
Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

If you remember Dublin in the 1980s, actually never mind the 80s try the late 1990s, then you remember a time when the docklands were not somewhere to go near if it could be avoided at all.

Nowadays of course things have changed completely and between the Silicon Docks on the southside of the Liffey and the IFSC on the northside, the area has become one of the most popular parts of the city.

Well, a similar thing has happened in London. It began with Canary Wharf in the late 1980s and has kept going, as the bulging city expands eastwards and the docks which were wiped out by container shipping and left basically derelict for three decades are rapidly turning into the hot new part of the capital.

Perhaps not surprisingly, an Irish developer is at the heart of it all. Sean Mulryan and his Ballymore Group have had operations in London and other parts of the UK for years, but since the property crash has focussed overwhelmingly over there.

The company is back doing housebuilding in Dublin and is set to begin construction of an office block on the north side of the River Liffey but in London it is set to launch the London City Island development.

Strictly speaking City Island isn't an island but is a peninsula beside Canning Town Docklands Light Railway station.

The 12 acre site has been scrubland for years, but now Ballymore is developing it with the backing of Malaysia's Eco World.

Interestingly, the development is aimed at professionals working in London rather than as a high end investment play, the likes of which have become so popular there in recent years. Phase One offers one bed studios beginning at £360,000 (€500,000) up to three bed apartments for £1.29m. Townhouses are planned for Phase 2.

As well as all the shops and amenities you would expect in a new development, City Island will also be home to the English National Ballet.

Ballymore's Paul Keogh says one of the key aspects to the development is the connection to the DLR, which in turn joins the Tube system.

"We had to get two separate borough councils to agree for the connection to happen, but it has been really worth all the effort it took," he said.

Crucially, the development is only a few minutes from London City Airport, offering connections to Ireland for the diaspora and elsewhere.

City Island's success will keep Ballymore on track to exit Nama. The company is considered one of Nama's more co-operative borrowers and is working with the state bad bank to make a clean exit from the agency in line with its business plan.

Ballymore has repaid more than €1bn to Nama so far, with more now expected to come.

Eco World is backing it for developments at Arrowhead Quay in Canary Wharf and Embassy Gardens in south London.

It's all a far cry from the wastelands of yesteryear.

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