Planning permission has been sought to demolish a high-profile mixed-use building at 20 Merrion Road, Ballsbridge, in order to replace it with a development more than four times its size.
The property, which is situated adjacent to the Horse Show House pub and directly opposite the RDS, is owned by Knockanore Properties, a company associated with the family of the late businessman Dr Tim Mahony, founding chairman of Toyota Ireland.
Under the redevelopment plans, the existing 2,368sq m (25,490sq ft) two-storey building would be replaced with a 10,395sq m (111,890sq ft) structure ranging in height from four to six storeys. The building would be constructed over a two-storey basement, incorporating staff changing facilities, bicycle parking and 35 car parking spaces.
The remainder of the proposed building would comprise office space with a net internal area of 5,481 sqm (59,000sq ft) and a restaurant over two levels with 455sq m (4,900sq ft) of space.
The existing pavilion-style building was developed by English developer Roy Strudwick’s Ryde Developments in 1991 as part of the overall Sweepstakes Centre scheme, but lay idle for three years after plans by a restaurateur to acquire and operate the building as a Chinese restaurant ran into difficulties.
In 1994, Dr Mahony’s Knockanore Properties acquired the property for the equivalent of about €2.53 million. His Killeen Group subsequently occupied a significant portion of the premises for more than a decade, using it as a showroom for its Toyota and Lexus cars.
The value of its 0.36-hectare (0.8-acre) site should be significantly boosted if Knockanore succeeds in obtaining planning permission for the proposed development.
Last year, developer Johnny Ronan’s 1.5-hectare (3.7-acre) Bankcentre site, which is bounded by Knockanore’s site to the west, was thought to be worth about €120 million – or €80 million per hectare. By that same measure, 20 Merrion Road might well be worth about €30 million if planning permission is secured.
Bellucci’s, the restaurant operated by businessman Robbie Fox within the existing building, is currently the sole opponent to the redevelopment. In a submission to Dublin City Council, Mr Fox advised that the restaurant occupies its unit under a long lease and that the proposal is “completely unacceptable” as it would result in the closure of his business.
Last year, Mr Fox’s company brought legal action against Knockanore after the company allegedly took possession of the property and changed the locks on foot of an alleged historic arrears of rent accrued by the Bellucci’s amounting to €140,000.
It appears the matter may not yet be resolved, as the two parties are due before the Circuit Court again next Monday.