Sunday, 1 February 2009

Developer not short of high-profile properties

DESPITE his planning setback, Sean Dunne still owns a substantial number of high-profile properties across the greater Dublin area.

These include a number of prime office developments, an area of the market which has seen its value estimated to have halved from the peak of the market less than 16 months ago.

These developments are now priced at around €8,370 per square metre, while office rents have also dropped by up to 10pc to €4,623 per square metre.

While development land value in Dublin city has dropped by about 40pc to 50pc in the last year, his development sites in places such as Kildare may have seen an even bigger drop.

But Mr Dunne has repeatedly said his high-profile Jurys/ Berkeley Court site has increased in value.

Last year he told RTE that while he accepted property prices had gone down, he did not believe they would plummet to the extent that, in five years' time, the property would be worth less than he had paid.

The Carlow-born developer said that the valuation of the land had doubled in the 12 months after he bought it for roughly €67m an acre, to €120m an acre.

"I considered that I was lucky," he said. "I was first in. If land doubles and is back 40pc or 50pc, it is still back at the purchase price."

Mr Dunne owns part of the AIB bank centre in Ballsbridge for which he paid €200m in 2006, going on to lease the office blocks back to the bank on a long-term lease.

He also owns Hume House in Ballsbridge, which he acquired by swapping it for his Riverside IV office block in a deal valued at €130m. Now he is seeking to redevelop Hume House as an office block of up to 14 storeys. He also owns the Blood Stone Building in the Docklands.

An Bord Pleanala recently refused permission for a €1bn shopping centre in Greystones, which Mr Dunne hoped to develop with another high-profile developer, Sean Mulryan, though their Zapi development company. The future of the 80-acre site is uncertain.

Zapi was also frustrated in its efforts to get Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to rezone the Irish Glass Bottle social club site in Goatstown for 265 student apartments. The company paid €18m for the site, and it is currently idle.

Last November, An Bord Pleanala refused permission for a €70m residential, retail and office development at the Zed Candy factory site in Kilcock, Co Kildare, because it would have a detrimental impact on the "viability and vitality" of Kilcock town centre. The development would have been spread over six blocks rising to six storeys.

He also owns a site in the north Docklands, and will find out next month if a retirement village of 100 units at Stocking Lane in Rathfarnham will be given the go-ahead by An Bord Pleanala.

Paul Melia and Donal Buckley
Irish Independent

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