Rich chase streets of dreams
Sunday, March 02, 2003
PropertyBy Emer Hughes
Over the past six years, there has been a huge scramble for the most prestigious addresses in Ireland.Dublin's business and legal elite have been vying with rock musicians and media stars for prime properties that have come to the market since the height of the economic boom.

The supply of top end houses on Shrewsbury,Wellington andAilesbury roads has virtually dried up, according to Peter Kenny of Jackson-Stops. ``I have clients who insist that they want to live on Wellington or Clyde Road, and won't buy anywhere else,'' said Kenny. ``Most are on a 12-month waiting list, and properties are still very scarce.''

Having found that most houses on Dublin 4's most desirable streets are not for sale, tribunal rich barristers and solicitors have headed out to Dublin 6. Kenny estimates that at least 12 legal eagles live on Marlborough Road alone and a further dozen occupy the leafy avenues of Palmerstown Road and Palmerstown Park, an area that has long been favoured by Garret FitzGerald and his estate agent son, Mark.

"Dublin 4 and Dublin 6 are particularly attractive to the business sector because of their convenience,'' said Simon Ensor of Sherry FitzGerald. ``Unlike rock stars, musicians and racing-drivers, most business and legal people have to commute to work so they don't want to be too far from their business headquarters or the Four Courts.''

A recent arrival in the Dublin 4 area is Bank of Ireland chief executive Mike Soden, who bought a property on Mespil Road last month from Margaret Heffernan's son, Michael, and his wife, model Maureen Dolan, for over e2million.

In Dublin 6, Ronan McNamee, who sold Cuisine de France to IAWS for e74 million, spent e2.8 million in 1998 on Atherstone, a detached Victorian house on Temple Road in Dartry, which would sell for at least e5 million today. McNamee bought the Temple Road property from Cormac O'Connell of the O'Connell's pharmacy chain. He moved out to Dalkey where he bought Mount Mapas House for e2.9 million in 1997.

In 2000, former Fine Gael minister, Gemma Hussey, sold a similar-sized house on Temple Road for e4.5 million.

Although high-profile solicitors Gerald and Clodagh Kean and promoter Denis Desmond have opted for adjoining neo-Gothic piles on Killiney's Strand Road, most hard-nosed business types aren't seduced by the romantic appeal of a turreted, coastal mansion. Unlike Killiney's Bono, Enya, Eddie Irvine, Lisa Stansfield or Karla Elliott, they want conventional, red-brick homes near the city centre with enormous reception rooms and a massive, secluded garden.

Top of every arriviste's list of desirable addresses is Shrewsbury Road, home to the most expensive real estate in Ireland. One of its better known residents is the former Attorney General Dermot Gleeson, who, along with his near neighbour, accountant Derek Quinlan, is an investor in the Nollaig Partnership, which owns the nearby Four Seasons Hotel.

Property developer Paddy Kelly snapped up Clancoole on Shrewsbury Road in the late 1990s. He built a house on one of the sidegardens, then sold the remaining site and original house to Tony Mullins, chief executive of the Barlo Group. Last year, hotelier David Doyle offered Mullins e10 million for this property a record price for a house with no development potential on the grounds. Doyle also owns a property on Westminster Road in Foxrock, which he bought from Dr Edmund Farrell, former chief executive of the then Irish Permanent building society.

Other Shrewsbury Road residents include solicitor Stephen McKenzie and David McCann from Fyffes.

Builder Bernard McNamara bought the old Chinese Embassy on Ailesbury Road, which he demolished and replaced with a state-of-the-art mini-palazzo. To protect his privacy, McNamara also bought the mews that backs onto the house, for just over e2 million.

Among his neighbours on Ailesbury Road are ex-Supreme Court judge, Nial Fennel l y, f o r m er EU commissioner Dick Burke, Chris Comerford of Greencore and financier Dermot D esmond, who paid e790,000 for Avonmore on Ailesbury Road in 1993. It's now reckoned to be worth about e8 million. Former taoiseach Albert Reynolds is also a resident of the road.

A couple of streets away, PJ Mara has lived in a house on Wellington Road since the mid-1990s when he bought the property for an estimated e440,000. It is now worth at least e3 million.

Another wise investor in the area is businessman Des McEvaddy who paid e1.9 million for Pitcairn, a huge but badly run-down house on Shrewsbury Road. Now fully renovated, it's estimated to be worth up to e10 million.

In 1999, Denis O'Brien paid e9 million for a vast house on the corner of Raglan Road that he acquired from former restaurateur Peter White.

Senior counsel James O'Reilly lives a few doors down, while solicitor Linda O'Shea-Farren, who was Nora Owen's programme manager and twice ran for the Senate for Fine Gael, lives at the other end of Raglan Road.

Another developer who bought in a prime part of Dublin 4 is Garrett Kelleher, who paid in the region of e6.7 million for a five-bedroom detached house in Herbert Park last year. It's a far heftier sum than the e3.56 million achieved by former Supreme Court judge, Hugh O'Flaherty and his wife Kay, when they sold their sevenbedroom Herbert Park home in July 2000, after a private negotiation with John Mullen, a British-based Irish businessman who part-owns the Thomas Pink chain of shirt shops. At the time, it set a record for a house price achieved in the area.

However, some property transactions haven't run all that smoothly. Sean Dunne paid e3.8 million for a 0.2 acre site on Shrewsbury Road, which he bought from Niall O'Farrell of Blacktie. O'Farrell had acquired the original 0.4 acre site from the Pharmaceutical Society of Ireland for a then record price of e4.6 million, outbidding property developer Paddy Kelly and more than doubling Gunne's guide price of e1.9 million.

Dunne and O'Farrell spent the next 18 months in a legal wrangle over the size of the site. The dispute was eventually settled and both men built palatial, adjoining houses.

It's now so difficult to buy property in prime parts of Dublin 4, the British couldn't find a location near the British Embassy in Ballsbridge for the newAmbassador's residence. Officials privately approached residents on Ailesbury and Shrewsbury roads asking if they'd sell, but none would budge for any money.

"The problem for these residents was: `Where else would we live?' '' said Ensor. ``There is simply no better area of Dublin that's close to the city centre as well. The British Embassy eventually bought a magnificent period residence on private grounds near Marley Park in Rathfarnham, miles away from the Embassy belt.''

According to Ensor, most property owners on Shrewsbury,Wellington or Ailesbury roads have built mews residences in their back garden.

One Shrewsbury Road resident, former Supreme Court judge, Seamus Egan, built a second home in the back garden he could afford to do this without compromising the main residence because of the garden's gigantic size.

``However, because the planning office is now taking a very dim view of these socalled second line developments, the likelihood of getting planning permission to do this now is very slim,'' added Ensor. ``This isn't necessarily bad news for these property owners because the value of their houses has soared. In these really prime areas, a propertythatwas bought for e3 million in 2001 is now worth at least e6million.''

More artistic types tend to opt for unusual properties in Dublin's version of Hollywood coastal Dalkey and the Killiney hills, known in some quarters as Bel Eire.

In 1998, Jim Sheridan paid over e1.3 million for a relatively small property called Martha's Vineyard on Coliemore Road in Dalkey, which he promptly demolished.The film producer is currently seeking planning permission for a 325 square metre property. It will be one of only a handful of houses on the road with uninterrupted views of Dalkey Island.

Rockview, another 325 square metre property on Coliemore Road, sold for e3.5 million in October 2002, and a large property called Shaneogue, also on Coliemore Road, was bought privately for e4 million prior to auction.

As with many sales in these discreet suburbs, it was a private property transaction, with both parties involved keen to preserve their anonymity.

Other buyers in the Dalkey/Killiney area are less publicity-shy. In 2002, U2's The Edge paid over e10 million for Fortlands, a mansion on Killiney Hill Road, set on three acres of gardens. It formerly belonged to the New York-based multi-millionaire, Sean Melly. The Edge had been refused planning permission for an extension to his existing home on Vico Road in Dalkey and needed the extra space for his partner Morleigh Steinberg and their two children.

Gavin O'Reilly and his wife, Alison Doody, continue to live in Bartra House, Dalkey,which they bought for e2.5 million in 1996, around the same time that businessman Fonzie O'Mara acquired Renata Coleman's former home on Sorrento Road for an undisclosed sum.

In nearby Strath more Road in Killiney, solicitor John Caldwell, who played such a central role in the Flood Tribunal's investigation into the rezoning of lands at Carrickmines, lives in a secluded mansion called Belfort with his wife Ena, just a short stroll from Bono and the Canadian Ambassador, Ron Irwin.

Also out in the south suburbs, Chris Horne of Iona bought a large, period home on two acres in Shankill from Senator Shane Ross,the price of which was never publicly revealed.

Other business and legal people have opted for Foxrock, where large, detached homes on extensive grounds are currently achieving e2-e5 million.

OnWestminster Road, Michael Cotter of Park Developments is a neighbour of fellow developer David Arnold, and the chief executive of Davy Stockbrokers, Tony Garry.

Torquay Road in Foxrock is home to Dr George Duffy, medical director of the Blackrock Clinic, and C&C group chief executive, Maurice Pratt.

Shrewsbury Road's Sean Dunne is currently building apartments on Brighton Road in Foxrock. Edmund Fry, a partner in William E Fry Solicitors, lives on the road, as does businessman David Anderson, whose family runs the film distribution group,Ward Anderson.

SmartForce chairman Bill McCabe also chose to live on Brighton Road. He paid e2.5 million for Liss na Carraig in the mid-1990s. Because it sits on a six-acre site,the sky's the limit for this type of property given its enormous development potential.

Some of the best value in top-end homes is to be found in Foxrock, as most of these properties are very spacious and have extensive, private gardens.

Coastal properties in Dalkey are fetching between e7million and e10 million ^ these prices were spurred by the 1998 sale of Sorrento House on SorrentoTerrace in Dalkey which achieved a totally unexpected e7.2 million. It was quite a price tag for a terraced house with a 1.5 acre garden but no parking or central heating. The cache of neighbours like developer Robin Power, his wife Michelle Kavanagh and film director Neil Jordan must have helped to overcome these shortcomings.

Following a spate of celebrity buyers in the area, speculation was r ife that the property had been bought by Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan or Michael Douglas.

Months later, it emerged that the new owner of Sorrento House was a little known, but hugely wealthy, Irishborn businessman,Terry Coleman,who had made his vast fortune in Britain selling car alarms and mobile phones.