The one-off hillside house in Ardbrack, Kinsale, with its understated architectural swagger cost well over €5 million to build; total budget might even have been over €7m.
Coughlan’s private family home, called Fastnet House after his west Cork roots, hit the headlines this week when a High Court judge — seeking to enforce a judgment for €28m against him — said Gardaí could break down its doors to gain entry and seek to arrest Coughlan, whose whereabouts are unknown. Portugal is considered the most likely spot.
Coughlan’s home is as contemporary as his development projects. He didn’t do retro faux-period mansions like most of his developer colleagues did with their spoils of the decade-long building boom.
This architect-designed pad, with 15-metre air conditioned swimming pool/ leisure centre and huge barbecue party deck parallels in many ways his and Howard Holdings’ own hugely ambitious development plans.
Largely funded by Anglo, they amassed tens of millions in debt, buying up waterfront harbour sites at top-of-the-market prices.
Many were to be linked by a River Lee high-speed ferry but several of the sites have since come to a watery grave.
On the home front, Coughlan bought a dated 2,500sq ft house then called Umera, on 2.5 acres of Kinsale land at Ardbrack in October 2001, just a month after 9/11 when international investment and all buying confidence had evaporated.
He and his wife Ann paid around €750,000 for that house — and promptly flattened it.
Two previous planning applications to build a replacement house here had already been refused when they bought.
Coughlan proposed digging out the site, lowering where the house would go, suggested a sedum grass flat roof so that the finished 6,000sq ft replacement would be 6ft lower than the original, and he got his full grant of planning permission, without third-party appeals.
He had a top crew behind him: architects were Scott Tallon Walker and builders were PJ Hegarty & Co. They were the same team as built City Quarter, an acclaimed development in Cork city. There, Coughlan’s Howard Holdings had bought a quayside site at Lapps Quay with planning in place for standard-looking apartments.
Howard Holdings junked that planning, and went for the €100m, now fully realised City Quarter project, which brought a number of firsts to the city: they included two basement levels of car-parking and a basement swimming pool, a boardwalk, a successful hotel and a landmark office block to boot, getting record office rents in the process.
“Greg’s vision did not include failure,” says one businessman who dealt extensively with him. That over-arching vision was borne out by Howard Holdings’ eventual planning application for a €1 billion development at the Docklands, a project now clearly long-fingered.
Fastnet House was a fully realised vision, with its sedum grass roof and eco-friendly cements, and the Coughlans bought additional land above the Scilly Walk to bring their full garden site to four acres — no mean feat.
Ardbrack is reckoned to have the best views in all of Kinsale, and this is a plum site in its midst.
Opportunistic €1m to €2m offers to buy it were made in the past year, according to sources.
The 6,000sq ft house has its four bedrooms downstairs, a small lift was put in for an elderly relative, and also downstairs is the spa-like swimming pool complex with slender 15m pool, gym, plunge pool, steam room, sauna and Jacuzzi.
Upstairs, oak predominates, rooms are cantilevered and seem to float over the harbour, giving impressive views thanks to floor-to-ceiling glazing (the glass is self-cleaning) and the kitchen has a big black Aga.
That kitchen opens to a huge paved patio for outdoor entertaining, where one of the massive BBQ units has a rain-sensing awning over it — but whoever saw such storm clouds coming, and washing away the vision?