It was a year of big buys and mega lettings. And for anyone looking to keep up with the fast-flowing pipeline of deals, in the Dublin market particularly, the commercial property pages of the Irish Independent and 'Sunday Independent' proved to be required reading. From Google's €300m acquisition of the massive Bolands Quay scheme, to developer Johnny Ronan's agreement with Facebook of the single largest office letting in the history of the State, to Marlet's near-record €77m an acre purchase of the site of the former Apollo House, numerous of the biggest stories of the year were broken in these pages.
While official confirmation of Google's purchase of the 36,851 sqm (396,660 sq ft) Bolands Quay development came on May 18 last, the Irish Independent had first reported the deal was being lined up on November 16, 2017. On August 5 last, the 'Sunday Independent' revealed how Google had agreed to rent 58,000 sq ft of space across six floors at businessman Denis O'Brien's office block at One Grand Canal Quay. The deal was later confirmed by Knight Frank as the largest letting of the third quarter, accounting for just over 10pc of the 564,000 sq ft that transacted across 56 transactions in the period.
In November, the Irish Independent revealed Google's bid to acquire two more office buildings from Kennedy Wilson next to its European HQ on Barrow Street. The deal for 'The Warehouse' and South Bank House was confirmed by Kennedy Wilson ten days ago.
Other major deals reported here first included the agreement by Amazon and flexible workspace provider WeWork to lease all 322,000 sq ft (29,914 sqm) of space being developed by Pat Crean's Marlet Property Group at Charlemont Exchange and by Sean Reilly's McGarrell Reilly Group at Charlemont Square in Dublin. The deal, which this newspaper reported on July 13 last, was officially confirmed on November 22.
While Facebook's plan to relocate its European headquarters to the site of the AIB Bankcentre in Ballsbridge was first revealed by 'The Sunday Business Post' as far back as February, this newspaper nailed its colours to the mast on September 20 with a report that developer Johnny Ronan would commence construction there within weeks. The hoardings for Fibonacci Square went up on the Merrion Road shortly after, while Facebook confirmed its move to AIB's Dublin 4 campus on November 8. This newspaper was also the first to report Ronan and Colony Capital's €180m acquisition in September of Project Waterfront. As the last remaining waterfront site in the Dublin Docklands, the 4.6 acre plot was arguably the most significant piece of development land to have transacted in 2018, Project Waterfront was brought to the market with planning permission for 27,890 sqm (300,126 sq ft) of offices and 420 apartments.
Two months earlier, on July 21, this newspaper revealed how Mr Ronan had entered into exclusive talks with US tech giant Salesforce in relation to the letting of all 500,000 sq ft (46,184 sqm) of the office space Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) is developing at Spencer Place in the Dublin Docklands. The deal will provide Salesforce with the capacity to grow its 965-strong Dublin-based workforce to 5,000.
On July 14, we revealed Kennedy Wilson's intention to acquire City Block 3 (CB3), a 5.91-acre site behind the Central Bank's new HQ. Confirmation of the €113m deal came on October 3. The overall portfolio came for sale with planning permission for 347 residential units on 1.44 hectares (3.55 acres), and a pending planning application for an office-led mixed-use scheme of 30,890 sqm (332,497 sq ft) distributed across a 0.95 hectare (2.35 acre) site. On September 6, the Irish Independent broke the story of BlackRock Real Estate Assets and developer Michael O'Flynn's €51m acquisition of the former Hewlett Packard campus in Leixlip, Co Kildare. The deal, brokered by CBRE Ireland, is one of the largest industrial transactions to have taken place in the market. The new owners are planning investment in the campus with a rebrand to Liffey Business Park.
On October 3, we revealed the news of investor Europa Capital's purchase for €63m of Clerys former premises on O'Connell Street from Deirdre Foley's Natrium consortium. Europa Capital - part of New York-based Rockefeller Group - subsequently confirmed its intention to work with its local partners and shareholders, Core Capital and developer Paddy McKillen Jr's Oakmount, to deliver on Natrium's plan to transform the former Dublin store through the delivery of a major mixed-use development comprising offices, shops, leisure facilities and a boutique hotel.
More recently the Irish Independent was the first to report on the acquisition by Pat Crean's Marlet Property Group of the former Apollo House site in Dublin. Having broken the story in this newspaper on November 15 last, we followed it up 11 days later in the 'Sunday Independent' with the news that Marlet had paid €56m for the 0.72-acre site, a near record of €77m an acre. The sale of the former Apollo House site, which famously became a focal point for Dublin's homeless crisis in December 2016, was confirmed by selling agent Savills Ireland on December 3.
The site came for sale with full planning permission for an 11-storey over-basement office building extending to 12,622 sqm (135,863 sq ft). When combined with its existing planning permission for the development of College House, a 25,000 sqm (269,097 sq ft) Grade A office scheme on the adjoining site of the former offices of An Post and Screen Cinema, Marlet has the capacity to deliver 37,622 sqm (404,960 sq ft) in the heart of Dublin city centre.
'You're not going to turn the Irish into Germans overnight." That's what Cairn Homes CEO Michael Stanley told me last September when I asked him for his view on the future balance between home ownership and long-term rental in Ireland.