Wednesday 21 February 2018

Noel Smyth in €150m Bolands Mills development plan

Noel Smyth
Noel Smyth
Nick Webb

Nick Webb

Noel Smyth, the solicitor turned property mogul, has joined with Sean Kelly's Benton Property to help redevelop the landmark Boland's Mills in the heart of Dublin's "Google Land". A €150m 14-story sky-scraper and residential units are planned for the site.

Smyth has joined the board of Kelly's Benton Property Holdings and his Versus group, both of which are in receivership. Versus has been renamed Fitzwilliam (Bolands) Ltd, after Smyth's own Fitzwilliam finance company. It is understood that Kelly's company may share in some of the upside if the site is redeveloped.

Sources have indicated that it will handle planning permissions itself rather than through the receivers. It may also negotiate directly with potential tenants if it is successful in developing the mills. Smyth declined to comment.

The proposed development is one of the largest proposed for Dublin since the crash and would provide almost 30,000sqm of office space for about 2,300 workers, 42 apartments, shops, cafes, restaurants and an exhibition building.

The Docklands Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) scheme, approved by An Bord Pleanala last year, enables property developers to secure construction permission from Dublin city planners which cannot be appealed to An Bord Pleanala.

The Boland's Mill site was bought by the Kelly-controlled Versus for €42m during the boom, with plans to build apartments, offices and retail unit on the 1.7-acre site. Irish Nationwide and Anglo Irish Bank funded that purchase, but Anglo had first security over the valuable site. Loans were subsequently transferred to Nama. Treasury Holdings owned sites adjacent to the mills.

Plans to build three 12- to 16-storey office buildings and a boutique hotel on the site were rejected in 2006 on the grounds they would be out of scale with the area. However, the downturn scuppered the scheme and Nama appointed Savills as receivers to Versus in February 2012.

Well placed sources told the Sunday Independent that Google had expressed an interest in the site.

The key buildings on the site are two six-storey warehouse buildings dating from the 1830s, as well as a premises on Barrow Street dating back to the 1870s. The Bolands bakery mills were used by the biscuitmakers until 2011.

Smyth, who was best known as being Ben Dunne's lawyer before moving into development, has become increasingly active as the economy improves and property prices rise sharply.

He was strongly linked to a bid for the vast Cherrywood business park in South Dublin. He was believed to have teamed up with a major international financial group in an attempt to buy the valuable site. However US group Hines delivered a knockout €280m bid for the 400-acre site being sold by Nama. It had been formerly owned by developer Liam Carroll.

The solicitor also hooked up with Canadian billionaire Galen Weston - owner of Brown Thomas and Selfridges - to take control of 50pc of iconic department store Arnotts. Smyth and Weston bought €140m worth of loans owed by Arnotts to its banks.

This has led to a stalemate with US private equity group Apollo which also bought loans, giving it an effective control of the other 50pc the of company.

Sunday Indo Business

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