U2 tower is 'stuck in a moment'
Fears over property downturn may stall band's ambitious elevation
By RONALD QUINLAN
Sunday June 01 2008
THERE are growing doubts over the future of the landmark U2 tower in Dublin's docklands as the fallout from economic downturn continues to take its toll on the property market.
Informed construction industry sources believe the erection of the Liffeyside high-rise building will at the very least be delayed, or even abandoned as the economic feasibility of the PPP (Public Private Partnership) project diminishes.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent, one highly-placed source said: "The final contracts haven't been signed between the developer (Ballymore Homes) and the DDDA (Dublin Docklands Development Authority). Given the way things are going in the industry, don't expect anything to happen soon."
While media reports on May 7 had suggested that a signed agreement between the DDDA and Geranger -- a consortium consisting of Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Homes, developer Paddy McKillen and U2 members -- was imminent; last Friday little progress appeared to have been made.
Responding to the claims that the construction of the U2 tower was now in doubt, a spokesperson for the Docklands Authority said the "negotiation process was still ongoing" and that there were "many complicated issues which have to be agreed" before the development would commence.
Interestingly, the spokesperson referred to Geranger -- the consortium of which Ballymore Homes is a member -- as the "provisional" preferred bidder for the development of the U2 tower.
The spokesperson stressed, however, that the dockland authority was satisfied with progress on the negotiations.
Ballymore Homes, meanwhile, refused to comment on claims that it was reluctant to sign the final contracts required before the development of the U2 tower could get underway.
Responding to questions on the matter last Friday, a spokesperson for the developer said: "In agreement with the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, Ballymore Homes is precluded from commenting on this to the media."
The proposed 120-metre tower is the latest Public Private Partnership (PPP) project to come under threat from worsening conditions in the residential property sector.
Only two weeks ago, five PPP housing regeneration schemes were derailed after multimillionaire developer Bernard McNamara withdrew on the grounds that they were no longer financially viable and is currently discussing the future of the project with Dublin City Council.
Explaining his decision, Mr McNamara cited larger apartment sizes and tighter building regulations as the major factors in making the developments in Dublin's inner city unworkable.
In the case of the proposed U2 tower development, among the hundreds of apartments and offices there are plans for the provision of a block of 34 social and affordable housing units under the terms of the PPP agreement.
Given the prevailing economic conditions, industry sources maintain that it is the proposal for luxury apartments and a high-end hotel that will be of more concern to the development consortium.
The most notable element of the project, however, is the proposal for an egg-shaped recording studio for U2.
Suspended beneath vertical wind turbines and a massive solar panel, the studio to replace the band's famous Windmill Lane facility is poised to raise the height of the Norman Foster-designed tower to 180 metres -- 60 metres higher than the O'Connell Street Spire.
- RONALD QUINLAN