Leo Enright, the space journalist, former BBC correspondent and one time head of RTE radio news, is today selling his four-bed Temple Bar apartment for close to €1m. But when he and wife Lorraine Benson first bought it 30 years ago, the famous party district was down at heel.
The couple became space pioneers of sorts when they purchased the entire Aston Court block with a group of people they knew, and then divided it up to provide city homes for all.
By the late 1970s, Temple Bar was set to be demolished to build a bus station but CIE, delayed in its finances, rented the buildings out cheaply in the interim. Soon the area was buzzing with left-field shops and became a magnet for creatives. So in 1991, former Taoiseach Charles Haughey changed the plan, unveiling tax incentives aimed at revitalising the area and turning it into a cultural district. Enthused by this vision, Enright and Benson teamed up with friends the following year to buy the landmark quayside red-brick block on the corner of Aston Quay and Bedford Row for a "modest sum".
They sold the ground-floor units to retailers and then divvied the upper floors into 10 apartments. "We bought it at a time when Temple Bar was neither popular nor profitable," recalls 65-year-old Enright. "By grouping together as a gang of people, we could leverage enough money to buy the block. It wasn't a bad model and I'm not sure it wouldn't work in slightly different terms today. We had to bring in a senior counsel to advise us on how to divide it up."
Enright and Benson ended up with 2,637 sq ft of living space spread across the building's second and third floors, which command views of the Ha'penny Bridge, River Liffey and Temple Bar.
But renovating an entire block was no easy feat, says Enright, who discovered that there had been a building on the site from the early 19th century that had been redeveloped in the 1930s with a new brick façade. The tough old construction proved difficult to work with.
"When we bought it, there were dingy little offices there," he says. "Our son Rob was brought into the apartment in a Moses basket, pushed through a hole in the wall because a proper entrance hadn't yet been finished."
Enright, who is currently on lockdown in Marseille, says: "We loved it [Temple Bar] in the early days, but as it became busier, we adapted." After a stint as RTE's London correspondent, Enright became the BBC's man in Dublin through the 1990s. A devoted space enthusiast, today he sits on the Board of Governors of the School of Cosmic Physics.
The original timber floors, high ceilings and sash windows were retained. The entrance hall leads to a vast open-plan reception room with a dining area overlooking the Ha'penny Bridge. A baby grand piano has long been the centrepiece of this room.
"Rob and his friends would jam there. The house was constantly filled with music." Enright has interviewed taoisigh, here, including Garret FitzGerald and John Bruton.
There's a dual-aspect kitchen with dark-grey units and a breakfast bar. Off the kitchen is a utility room and a bathroom. Also on this floor is a dining room and the first of four bedrooms with an ensuite. The couple added a second kitchen to the original dining room to create an open-plan kitchen/living space.
The third floor has the other three bedrooms, the master with a walk-in wardrobe that leads to an ensuite bathroom. One side of the main bedroom overlooks the river and the other has access to the conservatory. A bathroom completes the upstairs accommodation.
After 30 years, Enright and Benson are downsizing. No 5 Aston Court is asking €995,000 through Knight Frank.