Johnny Ronan lodges €200m plan for Ballsbridge in Dublin 4
DEVELOPER Johnny Ronan will continue his comeback to the Irish property scene with an ambitious €200m office block plan lodged for a landmark site in Dublin's Ballsbridge.
Mr Ronan acquired four vacant office blocks and surrounding land in front of AIB's Bankcentre building, opposite the RDS grounds, for €67.5m last year.
The near four-acre site on the Merrion Road was sold by a receiver on behalf of Nama and Ulster Bank. It had been acquired in 2006 by Carlow property developer Sean Dunne for a reported €200m.
A 2009 'Mountbrook' planning application for the site, made up of six office blocks ranging from seven to nine storeys, was refused by An Bord Pleanála in 2011 after facing opposition from residents' groups.
The new plan, codenamed Project Pegasus, lodged with Dublin City Council shows that the two office block development will be six storeys high over three levels of basement.
The total gross floor area of the Henry J Lyons-designed development will be 52,247 sq m - more than five times the 9,789 sq m in gross floor area of the existing four office blocks that are going to be demolished.
John Spain & Associates, the planning consultants for Mr Ronan's firm, RGRE Ballsbridge Developments Ltd, have told the council that having regard to the zoning of the site and its proximity to public transport, the site is a suitable location to provide a more intensive form of development which meets the demand for larger office floor plates and HQ accommodation within this area of Dublin.
The planning consultants have described the plan as "modest in scale, comprising four storeys fronting Merrion Road, rising to six storeys over two full basement levels and a third sub-basement level". John Spain & Associates state that the existing buildings are no longer fit for purpose and said the plan "will ensure the development of high quality stock and an appropriate intensity of development for this urban site".
The consultants say it's "a high quality design" which has regard to the need to protect the setting and character of Merrion Road and adjacent residential areas. The report states that "the height, design and setback of the development have been carefully considered to ensure an appropriately scaled development set within a landscape site to mitigate any potential visual impacts".
The prime location of the site and the size of the planned offices should prove attractive for multinationals and IDA clients seeking to either locate in Dublin or expand here.
The documentation reveals that the initial design study for 'Pegasus' focused on the potential to refurbish and reuse the existing buildings.
However, this was ruled out because of the significant costs.
The Ronan Group signed the deal for the site, financed by Cardinal Capital and Jefferies Loancore, last October. The Bankcentre purchase is Mr Ronan's third major development since exiting Nama last year.
He is also developing an office block on Burlington Road, also in Ballsbridge, and plans to build a 22-story tower at Tara Street in central Dublin in partnership with State-owned CIE.
The 'Pegasus' plan comes against the background of spiralling office rents in Dublin fuelled by a continuing shortage of prime office space.
Last year, HWBC's office market review said the shortage will continue to drive rents up until the end of 2017. But property investment firm Green REIT has said there is a risk that there will be an over-supply in the office market in the city from 2018.