Dunnes buys its Dublin su­per­mar­ket for €21m

Lay­den Group sells free­hold in­ter­est on 42,000sq ft build­ing next to iconic ar­cade Dunnes has paid an­nual rent of around €1m – oc­cu­p­ing it for more than 50 years

The Irish Times - Business - - FRONT PAGE - JACK FAGAN Com­mer­cial Prop­erty Ed­i­tor

Dunnes Stores has pur­chased one of its busiest Dublin su­per­mar­kets af­ter rent­ing it for more than 50 years.

It has paid €21 mil­lion for the free­hold in­ter­est in the su­per­mar­ket at South Great Ge­orge’s Street, which had been owned by the Lay­den Group since 1992.

The dis­clo­sure of the sale was made by Lay­den in its lat­est au­dited ac­counts for the Rev­enue Com­mis­sion­ers.

Ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the two par­ties had been on­go­ing for sev­eral years without the aid of prop­erty ad­vis­ers.

The fi­nal price agreed might well strengthen prop­erty val­ues in the area, where a good pro­por­tion of the com­mer­cial real es­tate is owned by the Dunne and Lay­den fam­i­lies.

The su­per­mar­ket and the ad­join­ing Ge­orge’s Street Ar­cade were orig­i­nally bought at the same time in 1992 by the Lay­den Group at a knock­down price of €2 mil­lion. Prop­erty val­ues had slumped as the re­sult of an un­usual cur­rency cri­sis.

Up to the re­cent off-mar­ket sale, Dunnes paid an an­nual rent of around €1 mil­lion for the su­per­mar­ket, which has a ground floor area of 1,115sq m (12,000sq ft) and a fur­ther 2,787sq m (30,000sq ft) in over­head ac­com­mo­da­tion.

At the height of the prop­erty crash in 2013, the Cir­cuit Civil Court cut Dunnes’ rent by 35 per cent. The red­brick build­ing is lo­cated across the street and about 200 yards from Dunnes’ new head­quar­ters build­ing.

Un­der the own­er­ship deal, it is un­der­stood that Dunnes will have the op­tion of open­ing up a 30ft-wide door­way in­ter­link­ing the su­per­mar­ket and ar­cade.

Di­verse mix

The ar­cade has a di­verse mix of about 40 traders sell­ing ev­ery­thing from trendy fash­ion and ac­ces­sories to funky mu­sic, cof­fee and cakes, coin col­lec­tions and for­tune-telling ses­sions.

In re­cent years the Lay­den Group has been ap­proached nu­mer­ous times by in­vestors and prop­erty funds in­ter­ested in ac­quir­ing the ar­cade, with a view to chang­ing the busi­ness into an en­ter­tain­ment cen­tre with a mix of restau­rants, cafes and bars.

The group has no plans to dis­pose of the ar­cade, which is seen as a jewel in the Dublin shop­ping scene.

The Lay­den Group’s con­sol­i­dated fi­nan­cial state­ments for 2017 show that its ex­panded com­pany emerged from the 2008 prop­erty crash largely un­scathed, with share­holder

The Lay­den Group has no plans to dis­pose of the ar­cade, which is seen as a jewel in the Dublin shop­ping scene

funds, in­clud­ing in­vest­ment funds, at €46 mil­lion af­ter writ­ing down as­sets by about €7 mil­lion.

In the throes of a fall­ing mar­ket, its de­ci­sion to en­ter and then exit the Ger­man mar­ket in the noughties so as to rein­vest in Dublin through the pur­chase of Boole House in Clonskeagh, the Smur­fit build­ing in Bal­ly­mount and the O2 shop in Grafton Street, seems to have paid div­i­dends.

The group, founded 40 years ago by Joe Lay­den, has been joined by five fam­ily mem­bers as di­rec­tors – Gwen, Siobhan, Anita, Jack and Cather­ine, as well as an ex­ist­ing direc­tor, ac­coun­tant Thomas Lavelle.

The Ge­orge’s Street Ar­cade was Dublin’s first and only pur­pose-built Vic­to­rian shop­ping cen­tre when it opened on Septem­ber 13th, 1881. The re­tail com­plex did not ini­tially ap­peal to or­di­nary Dublin­ers, pos­si­bly be­cause of the us­age of English ar­chi­tects and builders to de­velop it.

Tragedy be­fell the mar­ket on Au­gust 27th, 1892, when the en­tire com­plex was de­stroyed by fire, In due course the ar­cade was re­built in the same style, us­ing lo­cal labour and crafts­men, and re­opened for busi­ness on Septem­ber 13th, 1894.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: DARA MAC DÓNAILL

Dunnes Stores’ su­per­mar­ket at South Great Ge­orge’s Street, ad­join­ing the Ge­orge’s Street Ar­cade.

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