Dunne gets green light for new offices as one in four lies empty
DEVELOPER Sean Dunne has been granted planning permission to redevelop the Hume House office block in Dublin 4, despite a 25pc office vacancy rate across the city.
An Bord Pleanala yesterday granted permission to Mountbrook, a company owned by the businessman, to demolish the 1960s nine-storey tower and replace it with a Y-shaped building of six, eight and nine storeys.
The move comes despite opposition from local resident and financier Dermot Desmond, who described the new building -- which will sit in Dublin 4's 'Golden Triangle' of Pembroke Road, Shelbourne Road and Lansdowne Road -- as "ugly" and reminiscent of 1960s "brutalist type" architecture.
Other local residents also opposed the plans for the new building, claiming the application was made so that the site would be given the highest possible value by NAMA.
But An Bord Pleanala granted permission subject to 16 conditions, including that the external finishes for the building should be agreed in advance with Dublin City Council.
Mr Dunne, who is believed to be on holiday, issued a statement welcoming the decision.
"The Mountbrook Group is delighted that An Bord Pleanala has upheld the decision of Dublin City Council to grant planning permission for Hume House, which augurs well for the future development of the city," the statement said.
A spokesman could not confirm whether the project would proceed.
Hume House, a nine-storey office block on Northumberland Road, was built in 1966 and was bought by Mr Dunne in 2005 in a €130m deal.
It was among a number of high-profile investments made by Mr Dunne in 2005, which included the €379m Jury's/Berkeley Court hotels.
He bought Hume House from Irish Life and the deal included swapping a docklands property, Riverside IV, which now houses law firm Matheson Ormsby Prentice.
Recent figures from property agent CB Richard Ellis show that while the office letting market is improving, more than 23pc of all office space in the city is vacant. Rents have fallen by as much as 44pc from the peak, and the overall vacancy rate now stands at 23.6pc.
The redeveloped Hume House, nine storeys tall at its highest point, will be 10 metres taller than the existing building, rising to almost 39 metres. It will have 16,000sqm of office space and 69 car parking spaces.
Although office buildings of more than six storeys are not permitted in Ballsbridge, An Bord Pleanala can grant permission to redevelop buildings to a height more than six storeys if their existing height is already over that limit.
It said that replacing the building would not seriously injure the amenities of the area.
"The proposed development would, therefore, be in accordance with the property planning and sustainable development of the area," An Bord Pleanala said.
Mr Dunne has since submitted revised plans for the Jury's/Berkeley Court hotel sites, which were rejected last year. His new plans involve a dozen blocks of mainly residential development, including two 15-storey towers.
Behind the headLines: Business, Page 12