Sunday, 14 June 2009

Elysian: the final resting place of the boom

It was launched last September with a glitzy party attended by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin. It had a starring role in TV3's The Apprentice and was billed as the ultimate in Celtic Tiger living.

But were property developers dreaming when they built Ireland's tallest apartment block and hoped millionaires would be queuing up to move in?

The Sunday Tribune has learned that nine months after going on sale, just 35 out of the 211 properties in Cork's exclusive Elysian building have been sold.

According to Michael O'Flynn, the developer of €150m project: "It's not the product. It's just the times we're in."

But buyers would need to be immune to the recession and have deep wallets to afford prices which range from €375,000 for a one-bedroom apartment, up to €2m for the largest penthouses.

Not only do buyers get a bird's eye view of Cork from a skyscraper six metres higher than Cork County Hall and 13 metres higher than Liberty Hall in Dublin, they also get black-lacquer kitchens with taps designed by Porsche.

Such extras are key selling points, says Trish Stokes, a director at selling agent Sherry Fitzgerald Cork.

"People who have viewed or bought with us have been extremely impressed by the specifications and the standard of finish throughout," she says. "They tell us they haven't seen that level of high-quality finish delivered in any apartment to date."

However, despite a considerable marketing campaign and a major role in the last series of The Apprentice, where contestants competed to design a television commercial for O'Flynn, the seller is still struggling to shift units.

"It's not as if we're the only ones affected," Stokes said. "It's an even distribution of grief to be honest."

Last Friday, the vast building was almost entirely deserted. With no evidence of residents coming or going, there were only a handful of cars in the vast car park.

There was no sign of any security presence and the reception/concierge desk was unmanned, with the main entrance firmly shut.

All bar one of the ground floor commercial units lay unoccupied and unfinished, with Rabo Bank/ACC the sole business tenant in situ.

A bank employee confirmed the office had been open since January but did not know what other companies, if any, were expected to join them. While an agent's sign claimed that only two medical/office units remain, the almost total lack of activity at the complex suggested otherwise.

The Elysian 'Experience', which appeared to be a partially finished café-bar, lay seemingly abandoned mid-project with no suggestion of imminent completion.

It was all a complete contrast to publicity material for developer, O'Flynn Construction, which says: "Since its completion in mid-2008, The Elysian stands like a beacon above the city."

Sunday Tribune

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