CIE plans a massive multi-million-euro redevelopment of Dublin's Connolly Station with 13 new buildings up to seven storeys in height planned for the city centre site.
The semi-state transport company yesterday unveiled its plans for the ambitious project, which involves construction of offices, 106 apartments and a hotel in the heart of the city centre.
The move comes despite a glut of available office space in the city. Although it had just unveiled the plans, CIE last night insisted it would not go ahead unless the market improved, at which point it would look for financial backing, possibly from the private sector.
Estate agents CB Richard Ellis says there is almost 500,000 sq m of office space lying empty, but there was a lack of large office spaces needed by multinational companies.
"When it comes to large international occupiers like Google looking for 7,000 sq m for a flagship operation or European headquarters, we're looking at a situation where space of that size is not available," CBRE property economist Patrick Koucheravy said.
"You can have the north-southside debate all you want, but Irish Rail is doing the right thing by planning ahead.
"It's in the city centre which gets the majority of the demand for office space, and it's beside the IFSC so it is a very good location. That being said, Dublin 1, 3 and 7 would not get as much attention as Dublin 2 and 4, which is the prime location."
The company is seeking a 10-year planning permission for the project, which will be co-funded by the private sector.
The cost of building the 13 office blocks is not known. It plans to demolish its central train control, maintenance shed and a number of other office buildings and replace them with a 81,538 sq m mixed-use commercial, community and residential development on a 3.2 hectare site.
The plan includes:
•13 new buildings, ranging in height from two to seven storeys, on the space currently occupied by offices and the car park.
•106 apartments, with three one-bed, 81 two-bed and 22 three-bed units built in four blocks.
•A 110-bedroom hotel above Connolly Station.
•Just over 50,000 sq m of offices, in seven blocks.
•Construction of a new street through the site, linking Seville Place and Sheriff St Lower.
•Restaurants and retail spaces, a creche and new public open spaces. The existing local GAA club and boxing club facilities will be retained.
•Excavation of 1.78 hectares of the site to provide 550 underground car parking spaces, four coach spaces and 260 cycling bays.
The company said it was "preparing for the future" as the prime site would be in demand when the market improves.
Spokesman Barry Kenny said the plans were being submitted now so the company could take advantage when the economy improves. "We're doing it because it's a prime area and we'll have permission when market conditions improve."
"We will be looking for private-sector involvement. Over the years we have done so, such as in the mid-1990s when we did Connolly Station and Heuston.
"The site is also directly adjacent to the IFSC, making it an attractive area for development when market conditions improve."
This is not the first time the company has dabbled in property speculation. In February last year, An Bord Pleanala gave CIE a 10-year permission to build a 12-storey railway station and offices at Tara Street station in Dublin. The building will be 50m tall, just nine metres shorter than the country's first skyscraper, Liberty Hall, which is directly across the Liffey.
A €1bn plan for Galway station, which includes a new station, 800 apartments, shops, bars, hotels and restaurants, is currently on hold.