Wednesday 19 June 2019

Developers and planners divided on RTE revamp

DONAL BUCKLEY

HUNDREDS of people in the construction and property sector will be hoping that RTE starts its redevelopment plan sooner than 2012 and finishes it well before 2025. Others will hope that aspects of the project will never happen.

Not alone would the construction work provide 670 jobs, it would also provide a €350m-plus boost to the building industry at a time when it will see the value of its output halve.

As the construction sector waits for RTE to act, it will see the value of total Irish construction output fall to only €13bn within the next two years -- a fraction of the record levels of €35.3bn in construction output seen in both 2006 and 2007.

Consequently, construction costs for the project look set to fall sharply by 2012 and developers are likely to argue that an economic recovery will push up building costs after that date. No doubt RTE management will argue that any such rise in costs will be minimal as the recovery is likely to be slow.

Others will argue that RTE has delayed its plans too long and if it had acted five years ago it could have financed its new studios and offices by doing a swap deal on the site with a cash rich developer. In turn, this would have saved millions in licence fees.

Meanwhile, some property owners and developers in the city centre, most notably Manor Park Homes, Guinness and P Elliott, may be concerned at the competition which RTE's plans could pose for the Digital Hub in the Thomas Street area of the inner city.

RTE is planning to let space in the Montrose site to independent producers and such extra space poses a challenge to developers such as Joe Moran's Manor Park which has already suffered setbacks in its efforts to develop the Digital Hub area, including a 50-storey tower.

At a time when the Government is considering disbanding the Digital Hub Development Agency (DHDA), the news that RTE is considering letting out space to independent media and digital companies will be another blow to the agency.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council planners face a dilemma that if they grant planning permission to RTE, they may well pave the way for a rival to the Digital Hub.

Such a rival would not augur well for attracting investors to the Digital Hub and, consequently, it might further delay the regeneration of the surrounding area, including parts of the Guinness brewery site. The uncertain economic situation has already put a drag on developers in the area.

Dublin City Council looks set to have a double interest in the Digital Hub. Not alone does the hub provide a key to regenerating the rundown sites around Thomas Street, but the Government is also considering giving the council the power to manage the properties currently managed by the DHDA and this could provide a valuable source of revenue for the council at a time when city centre businesses are closing down.

Meanwhile, any delays in regenerating the Thomas Street area would further delay Guinness which has already postponed plans to move its brewing operations to Leixlip.

dbuckley@independent.ie

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