It was a mad, mad year

WAS 2005 the year when the craziness went truly mad? Or made? Walford, a Dublin Shrewsbury Road house, sold in summer for a mind-blowing €58 million, on 1.8 acres, and may or may not have development potential.

Barrington's Tower in Carrickmines, with over eight acres, made €36 million and will at least have scope for building on the land, while Belmont on Shrewsbury Road was a straight house purchase of 0.6 of an acre for a mega €30 million.

Skip back just a year, and no single Dublin house made over €9 million in 2004. It seems that a quantum leap was made in 2005, with a clutch of c €9 million sales, the answer seems to be yes, we're mad.

And, there are even more measures for it to be bad, which will roll into yet more astronomical prices to be paid in the next few years.

One word says it all: Ballsbridge.

The market reeled when Sean Dunne of Ballymore Properties paid €58 million an acre for the Jurys and Berkeley Court hotels sites in leafy D4, lashing out a cool €380 million for the chance to develop world-class penthouses and multi-million euro apartment in the capital's best address.

By the start of December, however, that price-per-acre paled, when Galwegian Ray Grehan of Glenkerrin Homes paid €171 million for the adjoining two-acre former UCD veterinary college site, sold by the OPW. It equated to €84 million an acre, and put a cuckoo in the nest.

New Ballsbridge neighbour Sean Dunne has reportedly indicated that this own bid was just €95 million, or some €75 million less than Grehan's. The eUCD vet site sale promptly overshadowed the powerful play into the Dublin market which only broke that same week, and which was heading up for second-biggest deal of the year: West Cork developer John Fleming paid €165 million for less than eight acres of ground at Sandyford, with planning for over 880 apartments.

It was Fleming's third major Dublin site purchase, and he made the play as Bord Pleanala rejected one set of plans he had for high-density development at Glencairn, the grounds of the former British ambassador's residence. The 1,000-plus units they aim to build in the next couple of years will come out of their steel-frame homes construction production company Fusion in Ringaskiddy, Co Cork. Other Cork developers like O'Flynn's are set to also invest in residential development sites in Dublin, while local lads Howard Holdings and O'Callaghan Properties also constantly eye up Dublin sites. Owen O'Callaghan was an early bidder on the Jury's Ballsbridge site, hoping to add it to his quietly-bagged Cork Jury's Hotel site, now under advanced reconstruction.

Among the many developments opened in 2005 were the Mahon Point and Ballincollig shopping centres, effectively book-ending Cork's C-ring road. Only 359 shopping days left to Christmas 2006.

The year in numbers

IT was a year of amazing growth and even more amazing prices. Here are some of the landmark events in a remarkable 12 months:

* €6 billion invested by the Irish in European commercial property investments.

* €2 billion invested in the Irish commercial investment market.

* 5%: the Irish represent only 5% of total investment in European commercial property. So while we feel big we still have our place in a larger pecking order.

* €58 million paid for Walford, a Dublin house.

* €380 million paid for seven acres in Ballsbridge, currently the Jurys and Berkeley hotel sites. It is beyond Monopoly money: in Monopoly, the idea was to amass houses, then build hotels. This is tearing down hotels to build apartments.

* €367 million paid in a pre-funding sale and leaseback of AIB's new Ballsbridge HQ.

* Shelbourne Hotel Dublin sold for €130 million and is being refurbished.

* 77,000 houses and apartments built in Ireland this year.

* 70,000 immigrants arrived to keep the good times rolling and the economy in gear.

* €275,000 is an average house price for an average enough new home. Subtract €100,000 for a quiet country area, add €200,000 for a half-decent Dublin address.

* €8 million paid for a quayside half acre on Cork's Albert Quay.

* €2.9 million paid for Greenbanks, the former Douglas, Cork, home of Rory Gallagher.

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