Wednesday 17 January 2018

O'Connell St renaissance as Gresham, Clerys plans are unveiled

Gresham Hotel: sold by Nama at a €60m profit for €92m
Gresham Hotel: sold by Nama at a €60m profit for €92m

David Kearns

The planned €150 million revamp of the former Clerys department store is the first step in "unlocking the potential" of the capital's main thoroughfare.

This is according to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, which welcomed the news that the iconic site on O'Connell Street is to be redeveloped into a six-storey retail and office space.

"O'Connell Street should be the jewel in the crown for Dublin city centre, and I think it's fair to say it's far from it," Graeme McQueen, public affairs manager for the Dublin Chamber of Commerce told the Irish Independent.

"There's huge potential in the street… and we need to discover ways of tapping into it. This development is a step in the right direction, hopefully the first of many more to come."

Mr McQueen said the good news for Dublin's main artery kept coming as the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) agreed to sell the street's landmark Gresham Hotel for €92m.

The sale to Spanish firm RIU Hotels and Resorts is understood to have generated almost €60m in profit.

The Gresham's board is expected to approve the takeover this Tuesday. The RIU group edged out Irish hotel firm Tifco to secure the bid.

Nama declined to comment about the sale but Dublin Town CEO Richard Guiney said the deal was a "vote of confidence for the north side of the city".

"Given these recent developments, we're quite optimistic for the area," Mr Guiney said. "We've had lot of promising signs recently, including the sale of the old Boyers building, that there's interesting times ahead for (O'Connell Street)."

Clerys closed suddenly last year with the loss of 460 jobs after changing ownership. The site's redevelopment, drawn up by architects Henry J Lyons, is intended to preserve the old building.

The ground and first floors will be used for retail, while the upper storeys will be redesigned as offices aimed at attracting financial services.

A 176-bedroom hotel with an entrance on Earl Place also forms part of the plans, as does a glass rooftop level for bars, restaurants and leisure activities.

"We hope that this will be a major catalyst for change in the city centre and for O'Connell Street," said a spokesperson for OCS Properties, the new owners of the O'Connell Street premises.

Some 1,400 jobs are expected to be created as part of the Clerys redevelopment and the Dublin Chamber said it was "hopeful" that some might go to the store's former workers.

"If there's a chance, it would be great to see. Local people too should have a role in filling these positions," Mr McQueen added.

Irish Independent

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