Ronan ups ante in Brexit jobs race with AIB site approval

Developer Johnny Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate (RGRE) has said it will commence the development within months of 325,000 sq ft of office space on a site it owns at the front of AIB’s Bankcentre headquarters in Ballsbridge.

RGRE’s development director Shane Whelan said the company had already been in discussions with its existing funder, Jefferies LoanCore (Europe) Ltd and WLR Cardinal Mezzanine Finance, regarding funding for the project, following the receipt of final approval for the development from An Bord Pleanála yesterday.
Whelan told the Irish Independent the successful outcome of the An Bord Pleanála appeals process had come about following “months of positive interaction” with adjoining landowners, such as the RDS and AIB, and with Dublin City Council.

In giving its approval for the Ballsbridge scheme, An Bord Pleanála requested the removal of a sixth floor, which had been proposed by RGRE for the two office buildings it intends to develop in place of the site’s existing vacant office blocks.
Ronan purchased the 1.5 hectare plot opposite the RDS for €67.5m in 2015. The site had previously been acquired in 2006 by the then ‘Baron of Ballsbridge’ Sean Dunne for an estimated €200m.

Whelan noted that the granting of planning permission for the AIB site had come within days of the company’s completion of its €43m purchase from Nama-appointed receivers of a six-acre site at Spencer Dock in Dublin’s IFSC.
That deal, which was backed by US-headquarterd Colony Capital, is set to see the creation of Spencer Place, a €300m mixed-use development comprised of offices, residential and leisure.

RGRE expects to employ approximately 1,000 workers on the project and has already engaged PJ Hegarty as main contractor.
The successful acquisition of the Spencer Dock site in the face of competition from Greg Kavanagh’s New Generation Homes, Ballymore, Hines and Galliard, provides RGRE with a development pipeline of 1.2m sq ft grade A office space and 200 apartments to be delivered in the next five years, Whelan said.

Apart from its plans for its sites at AIB Bankcentre and Spencer Dock, RGRE is already involved in a joint venture with U+I (formerly Development Securities), the Belfast-born property investor Paddy McKillen and Colony Capital in the delivery of the Vertium building on Dublin’s Burlington Road.
The building, which is being developed on the site of insurer Allianz’s former Dublin HQ, is to be occupied by online retail giant Amazon upon completion.

Amazon has agreed to pay blended rent of approximately €50 per sq ft for the property, which will extend to 15,992sq m (172,000sq ft).
While the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and its potential impact on the Irish economy remains unclear, Ronan has long since made clear his determination to reap whatever rewards it may bring for RGRE’s business.

As previously reported by the Irish Independent, the former Treasury Holdings chief went on the offensive last month, taking out a full-page advertisement in the UK magazine ‘Property Week’ in a bid to woo UK-based employers over to Dublin.
“Yes… Dublin is calling,” the advert’s headline declared, in a humorous play on the wording of the BBC World Service’s wartime ‘this is London calling’ radio intro, which it used in broadcasts to occupied countries.

Prior to the crash, Ronan and his former partner in Treasury Holdings Richard Barrett delivered a number of Dublin’s foremost buildings, including the Convention Centre and PWC’s Spencer Dock offices.

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