Tuesday 25 October 2016

Huge sale of land set to trigger cycle of house-building

New York’s High Line is the model for Cherrywood plaza
New York’s High Line is the model for Cherrywood plaza

A swathe of zoned land in Dublin is about to hit the market in a deal that could help finally get house-building moving again in the capital.

Ulster Bank is preparing to sell loans tied to nearly a fifth of all land in Dublin available for residential development.

The portfolio, which includes 32 loans tied to 22 borrowers, will cover about 17pc of the Dublin land supply that is zoned for housing.

Project Clear is likely to be sold in three tranches. It has a stated value of about €1.2bn, but is likely to be sold for substantially less.


US property funds are likely to be the main bidders for the assets, but Irish builders - especially those with outside backers - are also likely to be in the hunt.

The lender is expected to put the portfolio on the market in the coming days under the name "Project Clear".

Each tranche will have a "cornerstone asset" alongside smaller landbanks.

A parcel of land at Adamstown in southwest Dublin will form one of those cornerstones, and is likely to fetch €300m.

An Ulster Bank spokesman confirmed it is "planning to sell a portfolio of loans, Project Clear, which include as collateral 17pc of all residential zoned land in Dublin".

Most of the sites are landbanks that were built up by developers such as Joe O'Reilly's Castlethorn Homes during the boom using borrowings from Ulster Bank.

The portfolio would have the capacity for potentially thousands of homes.

Most of it has fast-track planning approval under a strategic development zone.

Ulster Bank's decision to run a loan sale will raise some eyebrows in the industry.

Experts had expected the bank to enforce the loans and then sell the assets itself.

By following the loan sale route, the buyers will have to decide whether to enforce the loans or work with the borrower.

The biggest housing construction project planned in the city is the scheme for 3,800 homes, plus a shopping and office space, that US investment firm Hines is developing in Cherry- wood.

Hines bought the Cherrywood site, which is close to the N11 dual-carriageway, for €272m last year.

That development involves the building of a new town centre with schools, leisure facilities and about 3,800 new houses and apartments as well as 170,000 square metres of office space.

Hines wants to build an elevated, fully pedestrianised town centre plaza at the level of the existing Luas line running through the lands.

This will be modelled in part on New York's High Line district. Parking and road access will then run under the town centre.

Hines' boss in Ireland Brian Moran said his company was "poised" to start construction within a short time frame, with access roads to be built from this autumn.

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