Silicon Docks Growth Continues

Pictured: Google offices.

Pictured: Google offices.

In May of last year, An Bord Pleanála approved the North Lotts and Grand Canal Dock planning scheme, now known as the Docklands Strategic Development Zone. It allows property owners to secure construction permission from Dublin city planners which cannot be appealed further to An Bord Pleanála. NAMA was put in charge of the plan. It now forms part of the City Development Plan.

The southern part of the SDZ zone by the Grand Canal Docks has become known as Silicon Docks, playing off California’s Silicon Valley. The international tech companies like Google and Facebook are the better known ones around the area, but there are incubators and smaller tech firms within short walking distances.

There are significant plots yet to be developed. One of the first significant applications to be made under the new SDZ fast-track planning scheme for the Docklands is the €150 million plans for the redevelopment of the historic Boland’s Mill site.

Last December, plans were lodged with the council for the restoration of the five derelict mill buildings, and the construction of three new office and residential blocks. Dublin City Council have asked for adaptation of the plan. DCC have raised concerns about the designs for the site. These are objections that relate to the ‘architectural quality’ of the new residential buildings as they are perceived by the planners as not consistent with the heights and levels of the other buildings adjacent to them.

Room rentals website Airbnb has announced another major expansion to its Dublin workforce on the back of increased demand for its business. Airbnb, which is currently sited on Ringsend Road, is planning on its expansion in the area. It signed a lease for a planned 40,000 square foot office in The Warehouse building on Hanover Quay in Dublin. The new building will be developed over the next 14 months on the site of a 19th century derelict warehouse. It plans to hire 200 new staff in the coming months.

Log Me In, which opened in the city in 2012 and already employs almost 50 people, recently announced 90 new positions to be created over the next three years. Google and Facebook continue their ‘bedding in’ with the opening of new space in recent times. Both companies’ buildings are in different corners of the Grand Canal Docks area. And the list goes on.

The appeal and regeneration of the area is leading to a rise of residential and commercial rents. Investment firms are moving in to obtain a financial slice of the action. In February this year, NAMA sold Facebook’s EMEA HQ building at the docklands to conservative German fund Union Investment. The firm paid €232 million for the property.

“Ireland can no longer be classified as a distressed market. It has reached the point where private equity firms are not the leading bidders for single assets,” said Adrian Trueick, Irish investment property director with consultancy firm Knight Frank.

Pictured: Boland's Mills.

Pictured: Boland’s Mills.

Commercial rental yields are reportedly now around 4%. In contrast, little more than a year ago, prime Dublin office yields were closer to the 6% mark.

Residential rents in the area around Grand Canal Docks are rising fast, up by 15% from last year. A two-bedroom apartment at the Waterfront development overlooking the Grand Canal is now costing about €2,100 a month to rent.

All this begs the question about how the local community is fitting into this. The SDZ includes a total of 2,600 new residential units that are supposedly earmarked for the docklands area. In the SDZ plan, a total of 900 of the 2,600 residential units are to be built on the south side of the Liffey.

Seemingly, there are talks between NAMA and local politicians currently taking place to ensure that 20% of the units go towards social housing and 20% of the jobs generated by the plan go to the local workforce.

Commercial availability of office space in the docklands around Dublin 2 and 4 has reached a limit. Google and Facebook have taken a lot of space. As the area has such an appeal to international companies trying to join the boom of the area, the Silicon Docks is spilling over across the river.

Companies such as Dogpatch Labs, which had space in the Silicon Docks, is now occupying the CHQ building by the IFSC.

Due to such demand, it is hard to hear the voices of the local community within the buzz of business excitement. Frances Corr of Ringsend and Irishtown Residents’ Association reminded NewsFour that within the Docklands Development Plan there “was to be a split of 70% commercial, 30% residential development; with 20% of those residential units allocated for social housing.”

Social Housing clauses can be circumvented by different methods. One of those is to satisfy the requirements by building those social housing units in another area. The developer can state they have adhered to the conditions, even though they have built the housing somewhere else, although it goes against what people would have understood to be happening.

By Ferg Hayden