Over €15 million was invested in it during the boom, but now the Hanging Gardens development on Henry Street has been put up for sale for just €800,000 on the instructions of the receiver appointed by NAMA.
The five-storey development, which was part of developer Robert Butler’s empire and is partially completed, has already attracted plenty of interest and could fetch in excess of that amount, according to the local seller, Gordon Kearney.
Mr Kearney, of Rooney’s auctioneers, said the building could accommodate up to 600 office workers in the former GPO building, and represents a “fantastic opportunity to breathe life back into this part of Limerick.
“It is a skeleton site at present and will require substantial fit out costs. The people that are interested at the moment have plans to complete it and will be coming back with plans for office space. We have a shortage, believe it or not, of large fitted out office space in the city.
“For foreign direct investment looking at Limerick, they will require large office accommodation. From Limerick’s point of view, it’ll be fantastic because you’ll be bringing in large investment and employment into the city,” he told the Limerick Leader.
In relation to the cost, he said: “Since the building was erected, rent levels have dropped substantially, and there’s a substantial cost of finishing out that building, so that’s reflected in the asking price. A developer or investor is going to look at it and weigh up the cost of finishing it and the return he or she will get. When you do the maths on that basis, you are coming back to that level of value.”
Original plans for the site by Mr Butler would have seen retail space at ground level, and four floors of office accommodation over basement car parking. He had plans to reintegrate and restore two protected structures, the 1903 Mercantile Building and the 1808 Hanging Gardens Building.
In his budget report, the city manager Conn Murray also noted: “It has been recognised for some time that the lack of availability of quality office space of scale in the city centre is preventing jobs from being attracted to Limerick. Proposals are at an advanced stage to encourage NAMA to complete the partly completed Hanging Gardens development on Henry Street, which could provide quality accommodation for up to 800 people working in the city centre.”
City Council economic director Tom Enright also confirmed late last year: “If we want to attract significant foreign direct investment to Limerick, we need to have quality office accommodation of scale in the city centre. The quickest way [to do this] is to complete this development in Henry Street.”
In August 2012, NAMA appointed receivers to 15 companies in the Robert Butler Group, after they began moving in on his portfolio the previous year. Prior to the collapse of his 30-year business, he said he had spent €15m on the Henry Street project but said it would require another €12m to complete the development.
The building is being sold by the joint receivers, Like Charleton and David Hughes of EY.