Sunday 29 November 2009

The DDDA's many bad decisions

The U2 tower: the saga begins

The first competition to design a tower for the Britain Quay site was run in 2003 but the identity of the chosen winning design could not be determined. Later it was discovered that that particular entry should have been disqualified in the first place, so Irish architect BCDH's submission of a tower with a 45-degree twist was declared the winner. Originally due to be 60 metres high, by 2006 the height of the building had increased to 130 metres.

Documents released by the Department of the Environment to the Sunday Tribune earlier this year said legal proceedings between BCDH and the DDDA "were either under way or being contemplated". However, details of the correspondence could not be published as the department deleted the email in a highly unusual move. Asked at the time why details related to a possible legal action were deleted, an assistant principal in the department admitted that "perhaps that email should have been archived rather than deleted".

The U2 tower and Liam Carroll

The DDDA was accused of being "breathtaking in its arrogance" in 2005 by North Wall Community Association chairman Gerry Fay for assuming that its plans for the U2 tower should take precedence over a higher tower planned by Liam Carroll. The DDDA wanted only one tower developed on the south docks and Carroll already had planning for his. Fay said it was "patently obvious that the DDDA completely underestimated the scale of development required at this location in 2000, when the original plans were drawn up". He accused the docklands body of being caught "ball watching – rolled and mugged, once again they are now playing catch up."

Minutes from a Dockland Council meeting in July 2005 showed that the authority was in talks with Carroll to seek a joint development of his property and the DDDA's Britain Quay property "which will provide that there will be only the U2 tower and in addition that the Dunloe Ewart property will be developed only in accordance with the planning scheme". The DDDA has since insisted that there were "absolutely no compensation issues" in relation to Carroll.

Carroll failed to finish his project in the five-year planning timeframe. Dublin City Council decided it would not be built as insufficient works had been completed.

The U2 tower: The saga goes on

After negotiations with Carroll broke down, the DDDA decided to seek tenders for the site and to allow different designs to be used. In February 2007, a shortlist of five bidders was announced by the DDDA, namely Ballymore Properties; Royal BAM Group; a joint venture between Treasury Holdings and Sisk; Sean Dunne's Mountbrook Homes; and the River II Partnership, made up of the Kelly, McCormack, Elliott and Flynn families, who are involved in property development. However, it subsequently emerged the members of U2 were bidding for the tower site themselves, in a joint venture with Ballymore. They were then advised that members of the band "will not have any role or involvement, directly or indirectly" in assessing bids for the project.

The Ballymore-Paddy McKillen-U2 consortium, dubbed Geranger, won the competition to develop the site but the property market collapse meant the DDDA suspended negotiations regarding the development for 12 months. That revised deadline of October of this year was also missed. "We are now reviewing our options for consideration by the board," a spokeswoman for the DDDA said recently.

The Irish glass bottle site

Where to begin? The DDDA has a 26% stake in Becbay, the company which owns the Irish Glass Bottle site, which is now valued at €50m. Fellow Becbay partner Bernard McNamara is suing the DDDA in relation to the venture and the docklands body has now set up a sub-committee to deal with the issues. McNamara is in turn being sued by private clients of Davy Stockbrokers, who provided the mezzanine finance for his stake in the venture. The other shareholder in Becbay is Derek Quinlan. The DDDA approached at least one other developer about becoming involved in the venture. Redquartz, which is owned by Paddy Kelly and his family, were also approached with a view to seeing if they would become a joint venture partner.


Originally aimed at high-end retailers like Harvey Nichols, Armani, Gucci and Tiffany, the €50m CHQ retail complex has struggled since it opened and is known for its vacancy rate and lack of footfall rather than its attractions. The DDDA said last week that it hoped trading conditions would improve next year when the Luas to the Point opens, the Beckett bridge opens and the National Convention Centre throws open its doors. However, it admitted a change of use for the building might be needed and that closure is one of the options that will be looked at.

Liffey Island

The Liffey Island project instantly raised eyebrows when it was announced. The quays were to be extended into the river using podiums which would allow tall buildings be developed. Part of the site would be dug out to create a new canal with small bridges crossing it. The project has been shelved until at least the completion of the Poolbeg masterplan.

The Jeanie Johnston

In 2005, the DDDA bought the famine replica ship the Jeanie Johnston for a reported €2.7m. Four years later, minutes from a meeting of the DDDA's board in April show it was still unsure what to do with the ship. In the end, it announced that it was to become a museum, following through on the initial plan from 2005. The authority had offered the Department of Defence use of the ship as a training vessel for free but the offer was turned down. A company called Aiseanna Mara has been appointed "to carry out essential maintenance" on the vessel but the DDDA removed details of this cost which were included in minutes of the board.

Anglo Headquarters

The authority racked up legal fees of more than €5.4m during 2008, partly in relation to the judicial review of the planning certificate granted to developer Liam Carroll to develop the nationalised Anglo HQ building on North Wall Quay. Building has since been stopped on the skeleton structure as a decision is awaited from An Bord Plean├íla on whether it can be completed. Developer Sean Dunne is trying to have it demolished. Legal fees were also incurred in relation to damages "due to water ingress to the Vaults Bar in the IFSC. Some other legal matters are also pending resolution the accounts said.

The Jones Oil Site

The Jones Oil site was acquired last year for €17.4m. "There was a CPO on that site; it was before my time… it was not something we could get out of and an arbitrator established a price and the price was determined in a very different environment and we... were tied into that price," said DDDA chairwoman Niamh Brennan last week. The writedown on the land is between 60% and 70%. The CPO process on the site was initiated in 2005 and the independent arbitration was completed during 2006 and 2007.

The readymix site

The DDDA bought the Readymix site in 2006 and the plan is to "sit on it" until the market improves. The site came on the market with a guide price of €16m-plus and was bought by the DDDA for €23m.

Sunday Tribune

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