Friday 13 August 2010

Dunne gets green light to rebuild Hume House

DEVELOPER SEÁN Dunne has been granted planning permission to demolish and rebuild Hume House, a 1960s office block in Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.

An Bord Pleanála granted permission to Mountbrook Group, a company owned by Mr Dunne, for the development.

Approval was granted with 16 conditions, including that external finishes for the building should be agreed in advance with Dublin City Council.

Financier Dermot Desmond was among the objectors to the proposal, describing the design as “ugly”. He had said the facade treatment and the quality of the design were both “poor” and the materials “seem to be chosen for their cost-effectiveness as opposed to . . . design interest”.

Among the other objectors were An Taisce and the Pembroke Road Residents Association, which claimed the plan represented an attempt to improve the valuation of the site before it was taken over by the National Asset Management Agency (Nama).

Asked if the development would go ahead, the Mountbrook Group declined to comment.

Hume House, a nine-storey office block on Northumberland Road built in 1966, was named after its UK developers, Hume Holdings. It was one of the high-profile acquisitions made by Mr Dunne in 2005, which included Jurys, The Towers Hotel and the Berkeley Court Hotel in Ballsbridge.

He acquired it from Irish Life when he swapped it for a docklands property. Hume House was valued at the time at about €130 million.

The decision is likely to raise the value of the property, thus reducing the gap between its possible sale price and the value of any development loans taken out to fund its acquisition. Nama is in the process of taking over development loans from the banks.

The planned new building, though also nine storeys at its highest point, will be nine metres taller than the existing building.

It is designed in a “Y” shape, of six, eight and nine storeys high over a three-level basement.

The development includes more than 16,000sq m of office space and more than 3,000sq m of basement space. Finishes include aluminium, sandstone and white stone facades with extensive glazing.

One of the concerns raised by objectors was the possibility of flooding due to the planned three-storey basement and the building’s position in the Dodder flood plain.

But planning inspector Karla O’Brien, who recommended to the planning board that the application be approved, said there were no records of the site or surrounding area, which is 400 metres west of the river Dodder, ever being flooded.

A spokesman for An Bord Pleanála said it considered seeking specialist hydrological advice, but was satisfied that was not necessary.

Mr Dunne has also submitted revised plans for the Jurys/Berkeley Court site in Ballsbridge. This followed the rejection of plans considered by the planning board last year, which included a 37-storey tower.

His new plans include 12 blocks of chiefly residential development with two 15-storey towers.

Irish Times

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