Sunday 21 October 2018

Johnny Ronan mounts UK offensive to woo Brexit jobs

Vertium office building is a major development for Johnny Ronan and his company RGRE
Vertium office building is a major development for Johnny Ronan and his company RGRE
Johnny Ronan
Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Developer Johnny Ronan has gone on the offensive in a 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 employers from London and elsewhere, Ronan has publicly declared the determination of his company, Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE), to woo UK employers.

"Yes… Dublin is calling," reads the headline of the full page advertisement that RGRE took out in last week's edition of the UK's Property Week.

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

The company is already working on over €1bn in new projects in the capital, with the €150m Vertium office building on Dublin's Burlington Road and a €300m office campus at AIB's headquarters in Ballsbridge counting as its most significant developments.

Speaking to the Irish Independent, Knight Frank director Declan O'Reilly said he had received "half a dozen calls" which he said "might be interesting" on foot of the RGRE advert's publication in the UK.

While O'Reilly did not identify the parties who had been in contact to ask about the 1.2m sq ft of grade A office space the Ronan Group is set to deliver between 2017 and 2019, he said they were "all significant names" and "all operations of scale".

He cautioned, however, that the inquiries Knight Frank had received were preliminary in nature.

"There's a lot of homework being done at the moment by these operations, but it remains to be seen where they land and what they transfer across in terms of scale," O'Reilly said.

Asked for his views on Dublin's ongoing housing shortage, and how this might influence UK employers in their assessment of the city as a location for their operations, he described the dearth of accommodation as "an issue".

He said: "In our experience, in most cases companies want their staff to be able to secure housing near to where they work. In London, none of them are driving to work. They get the train or live close enough so that they can walk.

"One of the challenges for Ireland, and for Dublin particularly, is to push the residential side to give businesses considering locating here the comfort that there will be a significant increase in the accommodation within the next 24 to 36 months.

"It's going to take that length of time, logically. You don't press a button today and relocate 500 people overnight," he added.

O'Reilly's view on the potential negative impact the housing crisis could have on Dublin's capacity to benefit from Brexit echoes that of vice president at MSCI Colm Lauder.

In a recent interview with the Irish Independent he warned that the capital did not have the required apartment stock to house the employees of UK businesses which might consider relocating their operations.

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