Saturday 21 September 2019

Marlet set to pay over €77m an acre for Apollo House site

An artist’s impression of the proposed 11-storey over-basement office building to be built on the Apollo House site, situated close to Trinity College in the heart of Dublin’s CBD
An artist’s impression of the proposed 11-storey over-basement office building to be built on the Apollo House site, situated close to Trinity College in the heart of Dublin’s CBD

Ronald Quinlan, Commercial Property Editor

Developer Pat Crean's Marlet Property Group is to pay €56m to acquire the site of the former Apollo House office block in Dublin city centre, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Although the figure represents a significant premium of €16m on the €40m price the property had been guiding when it was brought to the market at the end of September by Mark Reynolds of Savills Ireland, it reflects the intensity of the competition between a number of rival bidders.

Several developers including Johnny Ronan and Paddy McKillen Jr are understood to have been among the parties who submitted offers for the site which is recognised as one of the few remaining plots with development potential in Dublin's central business district (CBD).

While the news of Crean's purchase was first reported by this newspaper's sister title, the Irish Independent on November 15 last, market sources were unable at the time to confirm the degree to which the selling price had surpassed the property's €40m guide.

Marlet's winning bid of €56m represents the equivalent of €77.7m per acre based on the Apollo House plot's 0.72-acre size.

While those numbers will invariably lead to comparisons being drawn with the €171m - or record €84m per acre - developer Ray Grehan paid in 2005 for the 2.2-acre site of the former UCD Veterinary College site in Dublin's Ballsbridge, there are certain distinctions to be drawn between the two deals.

The most important difference for Crean is the fact that the Apollo House site came for sale with full planning permission for an 11-storey over-basement office building extending to 12,622 sq m (135,863 sq ft).

Grehan, for his part, acquired the former Vet's College site without planning permission being in place.

When combined with its existing planning permission for the development of College House, a 25,000 sq m (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 sq m (404,960 sq ft) of office space immediately next to Trinity College Dublin, and at the heart of Dublin city centre.

Marlet's plans for the two sites will be seen as being integral to the creation of a new 'midtown' area in Dublin city centre.

The former headquarters of the Department of Health at Hawkins House is also set to be demolished and replaced as part of this plan.

Apollo House famously became a focal point for Dublin's homeless crisis in December 2016 after it was occupied by activists supported by celebrities, including singer Glen Hansard.

Nearby Tara Street could yet become the home of Dublin's tallest building should developer Johnny Ronan succeed with his appeal to An Bord Pleanala of Dublin City Council's refusal of permission for a 22-storey (88m) tower comprising offices, a hotel and rooftop restaurant, next to Tara Street station.

The proposed midtown area now under the respective control of Crean's Marlet and Ronan's Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) is widely acknowledged within the property sector as being one of Dublin city's best locations.

That's thanks to its proximity to Trinity College Dublin, Grafton Street, St Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, and Government Buildings.

The delivery of offices there is expected to attract interest from major tech employers, financial institutions, and professional services providers.

Sunday Independent

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