Since 1999 people have been falling over themselves to buy or rent a home in the old Crowe and Wilson clothing factory at Clanbrassil Terrace in Dublin 8’s Blackpitts district.
The red-brick factory which was built in the 1940s, was once a mighty centre of city employment; to the extent that a 1960’s newspaper advert announcing the sale of O’Beirne’s pub as far away as 1 Usher’s Quay actually cited the Crowe and Wilson workforce as a selling point for the property.
But like so many Irish manufacturing businesses, cheap imports shut things down. That’s when it began its new life as Dublin’s best-known warehouse apartment scheme.
Developer Michael Roden, who recognised the character of the flat- roofed, red-bricked four-storey block engaged architect Mary Donohue to remodel it into a Manhattan style warehouse scheme, which at the time, was arguably Dublin’s first proper loft scheme. Since then very few industrial conversions have joined it in Dublin with the exception of a small handful of conversions. This year The Warehouse turns 21 and agent Owen Reilly has just brought No28 to market on one of the upper floors. He says there’s a big interest already because of the building.
“I would go so far as to say that people who wouldn’t usually consider the area, will make an exception for this particular scheme. It’s pretty unique. This building is widely known and people really want to live in it. We’ve had first-time buyers, we’ve had those looking to trade down from bigger homes in Dublin 4 and Dublin 6.” With just one bedroom, two bathrooms and a balcony, the loft spans 1.260 sq ft which is substantially larger than the entire floor space of an average family semi. The huge open plan spaces, with an industrial or rustic hue are what loft buyers want.
Months ago DNG sold another quite spectacular and authentic loft at The Grainstore, Distillery Loft, Dublin 9, an expansive bachelor’s pad in a former grain warehouse which changed hands for a healthy €685,000. More recently it had been a ballet studio when in 2015 it was converted by architect Anthony Keeler to resemble something right out of old Manhattan. His brother the famous boxer Luke Keeler also made it home with a personalised gym and whiskey bar included as well as plenty of clever spaces for storing bicycles, the city loft dweller’s favoured mode of transport.
With two or three bedrooms, (depending on what you wanted to do with the layout), Loft 2 spans almost 2,000 sq ft, or nearly twice the size of the average semi-detached family home with stout timber floors and rustic exposed 19th-century masonry.
The heavy bag with which Luke trained during his time here was suspended from the same iron beam that had once been used to hoist sacks of grain.
According to Wayne O’Brien of the selling agency DNG, after a flood of viewings, the property changed hands for €685,000 and the new owners, a couple, were so impressed with it that they acquired much of the contents as well to keep that unique look.
“In a city where apartments tend to be so much the same anything like this with a bit of character, space and difference, really gets buyers going,” he adds.
Back to Dublin 8, and you have a 20th -century building conversion housing No28 The Warehouse in Blackpitts, with its unique industrial style banded art deco windows which bathe the big open plan space in light.
There’s a balcony winding around for a new owner to enjoy the air and city views in summer and Owen Reilly is seeking €550,000.
“Per square metre this works out cheaper than most of the period properties in the area. We love loft apartments like these, but they’re a real rarity unfortunately. The reason for that is that Irish building regulations and red tape make it relatively much more expensive to convert a non-listed building like this from the 1940s rather than just knock it down and start again.”
Developer Michael Roden is still proud of his building 21 years on. “We were ahead of our time I think because there wasn’t much going on down there in the late 1990s.”
Roden points to the complications involved in repurposing a building like this and the fact that they had to fit out so many show apartments, given the variety on offer.
“The building wasn’t listed and most would have knocked it down. But I was looking at it one day with the architect Mary Donoghue who had the vision. She said: “This would be perfect for Dublin’s first proper loft scheme.” Then she took out a piece of tracing paper and a pen and then and there showed me how she’d do it, by scooping out the centre of the building and creating a wonderful courtyard.
“It took us a long time to sell the apartments because I suppose people were used to a one-bedroom apartment being 400 sq ft rather than more than 1,000 sq ft, and these were completely different.
“But I did like the fact that most of the buyers were owner-occupiers. I think five were barristers. One buyer invested almost as much again kitting out. There’s lots happening down there these days I can see.”
A loft-style apartment doesn’t have to be in a repurposed industrial building like a clothes factory or a grain storehouse, as another spectacular version in Milltown, Dublin 6, shows. Also being sold by Owen Reilly, the penthouse apartment of at No 12 Convent Hall, was in fact the loft/attic area of the St Anne’s girls’ school and convent. A duplex three-bedroom home of 1,765 sq ft, it’s comparable in size to the four-bedroom detached family homes in this area.
Like the aforementioned loft, it has quality solid and polished timber floors. And again, like the Grainstore, much of the character is also provided by the exposed brickwork and elegant arches constructed at a time when a brick layer apprentice had to watch and help for years before being allowed place one brick on another. No12 also has the characteristic exposed beams and high ceilings that typify a proper loft.
On the hill sweeping down to Milltown Church, it’s also situated to take in some fairly decent views. It’s across the road from the River Dodder and within walking distance of the Dropping Well. The property is currently for sale through the O’Reilly agency for €875,000.
And if it’s views you want there’s No6 the Pierre, built on to what was the first floor dancefloor of the old 1830s-built Hotel Pierre in Dun Laoghaire. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms it has huge windows looking straight down Dun Laoghaire pier. Selling agent Janet Carroll is seeking €925,000.