Tuesday 23 January 2018

Cinema rooms, juice bars and resident dogs - Are these Ireland's plushest student apartments?

New breed of rental accommodation is the stuff of glossy magazines

Are these the most luxurious student apartments in Dublin
Are these the most luxurious student apartments in Dublin
Broadstone Hall
The Binary Hub
Binary Hub
A bathroom in Broadstone Hall
Student bedroom at the New Mill complex
Law student Ciara Hurley found accommodation at Broadstone Hall. Photo: Andrew Downes
The resident dog at Binary hub
A bathroom in New Mill

Gabrielle Monaghan

For more than a century, Frawley's department store on Dublin's Thomas Street sold bargains to the same working-class shoppers who bought their meat and veg from stalls around the corner on Meath Street.

The shop, which shut in 2007, was part of a vast site earmarked for development by Liam Carroll, before the implosion of the property market and Carroll's empire put paid to these ambitions.

These days, the Liberties is in the throes of post-recovery gentrification, and the old facades of buildings that housed Frawley's have been swathed in scaffolding, undergoing conservation as part of a 244-bed upmarket student housing scheme being developed there by Hattington Capital, a UK private equity and real estate firm.

When it's finished, the student complex will have roof terraces, penthouses, a private courtyard and a ground-floor reception.

The Liberties is at the vanguard of Ireland's development boom in private, purpose-built student housing, where the spartan furniture and damp walls typically associated with student house-shares and Rathmines bedsits have been replaced by the kind of opulence more synonymous with plush Docklands apartments and hotel rooms.

The new breed of student residences come with en suite bedrooms, juice bars, on-site gyms and cafes, cinema rooms, fitted kitchens, games rooms, landscaped gardens and views of the city skyline. For families with the cash to splash, their offspring can avail of such digs that are the stuff of glossy magazines and envy-inducing Instagram feeds.

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The Binary Hub

On Bonham Street, just off Thomas Street, lies the Binary Hub, which opened to students last summer. In exchange for rents starting at €900 a month, each of its 471 students have their own private double en suite with a shower, a study area, and use of a gym, study room, laundry facilities and bike storage - and even a resident dog to pet. There's round-the-clock maintenance and security, and a programme of social events, like barbecues, on the rooftop terrace with a live band, and boxercise classes in the courtyard.

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The resident dog at Binary hub

There are now about 7,000 private student beds at 21 student residences in the pipeline in Ireland, with more than half of these currently under construction, as international developers and investors pile in to the sector, estate agent Knight Frank said in a report last month.

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Binary Hub

Research suggests these bespoke residences are well needed: in 2015, the Higher Education Authority said 25,000 more student beds are required, mostly in Dublin.

The surge in high-end student accommodation in working-class neighbourhoods has its critics - it's been dubbed "stugentrification" in some quarters. But operators and economists argue that this purpose-built accommodation can help ease the housing crisis by freeing up homes in the private rented sector and delivering higher-quality living space for students.

That's certainly been Ciara Hurley's experience. The 23-year-old law student spent the last academic year at Broadstone Hall, a private student residence that opened on Constitution Hill last September. She moved to the capital from Belfast, where she had been studying for an undergraduate degree at Queen's University and sharing a "nice townhouse" with a friend.

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Law student Ciara Hurley found accommodation at Broadstone Hall. Photo: Andrew Downes

Her search in Dublin's private rented sector was "horrendous", with rents more than double the Belfast price.

"There weren't many properties within my price range, and I was getting barely any response from landlords," she says.

"When I did get a response, they made it clear that they wouldn't take students, even though I had references and a part-time job.

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Broadstone Hall

"I went to two or three viewings of two-beds with people I had buddied up with on the Trinity students' union Facebook page, but they were full of damp and in a bad area."

A neighbour in her native Co. Galway suggested she get in touch with Uninest Student Residences, which runs Broadstone Hall.

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A bathroom in Broadstone Hall

Hurley says: "The whole building had just been renovated and everything was brand new, including the dishwasher in the kitchen and a big new TV in the dining room.

"There's a downstairs cinema room, a games room with a pool table, and two decent-sized study areas.

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A games room at New Mill

"The building would put on movie nights and you'd get to meet lots of people from different colleges. There was a security guard working Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights and people on reception during the day in case you had a problem."

Prices at Broadstone Hall start at €180 for a shared twin room and go up to €260 for a penthouse room with a private roof terrace overlooking the capital.

Students - or, in plenty of cases, their parents - pay much higher rents at purpose-built accommodation than they would for standard private housing or on-campus halls. But these rents typically include utility bills and WiFi as well as luxurious trappings most students would never have dreamed of.

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Student bedroom at the New Mill complex

Sarah Linton-Walls, sales and marketing director at Global Student Accommodation (GSA), the Dubai-based owner of the Uninest brand, says: "Unlike the more traditional privately rented house or flat, our rates are all-inclusive so that all utilities and maintenance are included in the monthly payments, as well as the use of various amenities such study rooms, cinema rooms, and other social and recreational spaces."

GSA's New Mill is being completed in the once down-at-heel Mill Street in the Liberties. Even though this year's Leaving Cert finished only today, New Mill is already 85pc booked for the next academic year.

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A bathroom in New Mill

The seven-storey building will have 400 beds in apartments and self-contained studios, and shops, a restaurant and a business incubation hub on the ground floor. As well as the now-ubiquitous cinema room and gym, it will have a music room that's a "perfect space to jam", smart TVs in each of the en suite bedrooms, triple-glazed floor-to-ceiling windows and a landscaped courtyard.

Rents for a bedroom in a New Mill apartment start at €249 a week, with a studio costing up to €349.

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