Wednesday 18 September 2019

History of broken dreams at Glass Bottle site

The Glass Bottle site in Ringsend.
The Glass Bottle site in Ringsend.

Peter Flanagan

By now you can take your pick of properties that could be deemed an "icon" of the boom and bust.

For symbolism, the shell of the proposed Anglo Irish Bank headquarters is probably hard to beat, but purely from an economic point of view, the old Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend seems unparalleled.

The site is perhaps the last large undeveloped site in Dublin 4. Back in 2006, when land in Ballsbridge was more expensive than Paris, it was seen as the single best development opportunity in the country.

Bernard McNamara - the man behind the Longboat Quay firetrap apartments - put together a consortium including Derek Quinlan and the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) to buy the 24-acre site in October 2006.

The DDDA's involvement was crucial to the scheme, as it had fast-track planning powers. The consortium also laid out the perception of the same business people doing deals with each other. Anglo backed the deal with a €288m loan. DDDA chairman Lar Bradshaw sat on the Anglo board, Anglo chairman Sean Fitzpatrick sat on the DDDA board.


Even at €412m, the projections for the development seemed to be a licence to print money. The buyers forecast that the site clean-up and subsequent construction would cost about €3,300 per sq m, while office and apartments could be rented or sold for between €7,700 and €8,000 per sq m.

Within months though, the market had turned and the company set up to purchase the site - BecBay Ltd - was in trouble.

By 2009 the Glass Bottle site was valued at around €60m. By 2012 Nama had taken over the bottle site and it is worth an estimated €35m to €50m now. Today, the site stands more or less as it did in 2006: derelict, empty, and, in some people's eyes, still the dream location for hundreds of homes and offices.

Despite all the fallout, there was one winner from the Glass Bottle site saga. A company tied to businessman Paul Coulson sold the leasehold over the site as part of the €412m deal. He is reputed to have made about €30m on the sale.

Irish Independent

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