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Shelbourne's makeover costs double budget

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LARA BRADLEY MANY an ageing beauty has found her facelift ends up costing a lot more than she anticipated, and the Grand Old Lady of St Stephen's Green is no different. The makeover of the Shelbourne Hotel is now likely to cost at least ?80m - twice the original budget.

While it had been hoped to reopen the iconic hotel this month, the new owners admit they are "moving heaven and earth" to get it open for the lucrative Christmas market.

The spiralling costs and delays are said to be due to a radical rethink of the renovation by the hotel's new owners.

Ambitious restoration plans had already been laid out by the hotel's former owners, the Royal Bank of Scotland. But an Irish consortium of multimillionaire property magnates - Bernard McNamara, Gerry O'Reilly, Bernard Doyle, John Sweeney and David Courtney - bought the hotel just months later and decided to develop in their own way. Mr McNamara's own construction firm is now doing the building work.

General manager Liam Doyle said: "It is the first time in 50 years that the hotel has been in Irish hands, and the owners have put their heart and soul into ensuring it will be superior to anything that was previously envisaged.

"The original plan was to reopen the hotel as a four-star, but now it will be a five-star. The investment is very much emotional as well as financial.

"This is an incredible project of which the Irish people feel very protective, so it must be handled sensitively and that takes time."

The new Shelbourne Hotel will have 265 bedrooms and there will be 12 suites, each named after legendary characters with historic links to the hotel - such as Princess Grace, Peter O'Toole and Michael Collins.

The Horseshoe Bar and the Lord Mayor's Lounge will retain their traditional layout and decor and a new bar will be added. The gym will be upgraded to a luxury health spa, and the lift in the entrance hall will be removed and the original staircase restored. The hotel will also have the country's largest ballroom.

It will be managed by Marriott Lodging International, who signed a 30-year lease on the hotel in 2004 prior to it being sold to the Irish building consortium for an estimated ?140m.

The last time the Shelbourne hotel was closed for renovation was in 1867, when it shut while it became one of the first buildings in the country to get gas. Ten years later electricity was installed.

Mr Doyle said: "This time we have no second chances. It has to be right first time."