Cork: 25,000 sq/ft unfinished offices occupied

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Jan 18 18:08:20 GMT 2012

Irish Move Into Empty Offices Escalates Bust Legacy Battle
By Dara Doyle - Jan 18, 2012 12:05 PM GMT+0000 

A new front in the battle for Ireland's empty properties has opened up.
Before dawn on Christmas Day, activists took control of an unfinished 
six-story glass-fronted building in the city of Cork called Stapleton 
House. Instead of using the 25,000 square feet (2,300 square meters) 
for offices and stores, they plan to create a cafe, creche, library 
and music school for community groups. They already hosted a ceili, a 
traditional Irish dance.
"We are taking it back for the people of Cork," Liam Mullaney, a 
35-year-old spokesman for the group of about a dozen protesters that 
seized the government-controlled building, said in an interview at 
the site. "It belongs to the taxpayers."
Mullaney and his group are putting an Irish twist on the Occupy Wall 
Street movement, which began in New York and has spread to cities 
around the world, and highlighting Ireland's record number of empty 
properties, or so-called ghost estates and orphan sites. About 20 
percent of Ireland's office space is vacant, double the European 
average, according to estimates from CBRE Group Inc. (CBG)
The loans that financed the building in the center of Ireland's 
second-largest city are now controlled by the National Asset 
Management Agency, set up by the government in 2009 to rid banks of 
toxic commercial property assets, a person familiar with the matter 
said. He didn't want to be identified because the information on 
ownerships is private.

Unwanted Buildings
Ireland's landscape is dotted with empty and unfinished buildings, 
started during the decade-long real estate boom that ground to a halt 
in 2008. Commercial real-estate prices have fallen as much as 65 
percent since the market peaked in 2007, according to CBRE, deterring 
developers from putting more unwanted properties on the market.
The asset management agency, known as NAMA, has bought 11,500 
real-estate loans related to 16,000 properties since it was set up, 
Chairman Frank Daly told a parliamentary committee on Sept. 9. The 
Dublin-based body had more than 1,000 assets listed for sale when 
Occupy Cork took over Stapleton House, one of the most potentially 
valuable commercial buildings in the city of 127,000 people.
"Walk around any town in Ireland and you can see empty office and 
retail space," said Rob Kitchin, director at the National Institute 
for Regional and Spatial Analysis in Maynooth, a town west of Dublin. 
"The maxim developed in the U.S. is minimize the loss, maximize the 
profit, do as much as social good as you can, but it's not always 
that simple. Ultimately, NAMA needs to get its money back from 
somebody and somewhere."

'Unique Landmark'
Padlake Ltd., a Cork-based company, was listed as the owner of 
Stapleton House. According to public documents, Padlake controlled 
the property and Anglo Irish Bank Corp. registered a charge against 
the premises on Oct. 26, 2006. Padlake was dissolved on Feb. 5, 2011, 
the documents show.
In a listing for the property, Dublin-based DTZ Sherry FitzGerald 
describes the building as a unique landmark development offering "one 
of the most modern working environments in Cork's commercial district."
It would have 21,000 square feet of retail space and 4,000 square 
feet of offices when fitted out, according to DTZ Sherry. Right now, 
the walls are bare and the concrete floors echo with the sound of the 
activists readying the building for its gradual opening. The 
activists say the building has been lying idle since about 2008.
Legal Options
"In situations where the asset, which is security for a loan, isn't 
being protected, NAMA will examine all available legal options to 
protect the asset," the agency said in a statement. A spokesman 
declined to comment on the Cork building.
NAMA was created to purge banks of 74.2 billion euros ($94 billion) 
of commercial real-estate loans, for which it paid less than half 
that. The agency approved asset sales totaling 6.2 billion euros, 
Chief Executive Officer Brendan McDonagh said last month. It's 
scheduled to complete its work by 2019.
When the real-estate bubble burst, Ireland was left "with a hell of a 
hangover that will take some time to resolve," said Brian Hayes, a 
junior minister, in a speech today. "Nobody wants a return to the 
excesses of the wild years -- the toxic brew of crazy borrowing by 
developers, the mad and bad lending by banks, the poor to 
non-existent bank regulation and worse politics."
'Can of Worms'
After obtaining a key, Mullaney's group chose to occupy the property 
on Oliver Plunkett Street to "open the can of worms" surrounding NAMA 
and fuel an anti-bondholder campaign that has so far failed to catch 
fire in Ireland.
"People couldn't relate to us sleeping in tents on the street," said 
Finbarr O'Connor, a former construction worker who is working to open 
the building. "This makes more sense to them."
The occupation of Stapleton House is an escalation of a campaign 
which has seen activists camp in the streets of Cork and in Dublin 
outside the country's central bank. Mullaney said he wants his move 
to set a precedent.
The Occupy Dublin movement says it may seek to follow the lead of 
their Cork colleagues, while activists in Belfast took over an empty 
building this week that used to house a Bank of Ireland Plc office in 
the city.
'Occupy Belfast'
Activists unfurled a banner reading "Occupy Belfast" and supporters 
hoisted supplies to them via ropes. A police jeep sat outside the building.
Dublin-based Bank of Ireland was one of six lenders saved by the 
state in 2008, when the government guaranteed most of the bank 
industry's liabilities after the financial system almost collapsed. 
Displayed on one of Stapleton House's glazed windows is a list of 
bank bonds the government has agreed to redeem.
The most potent symbol of the real-estate meltdown is in Dublin, 
about 260 kilometers (160 miles) northeast of Cork.
The unfinished eight-story office block on the city's North Quay was 
meant to be the headquarters of the former Anglo Irish (ANGL) before 
the company came close to collapse in 2008. The lender bankrolled 
many of the developers that fueled the boom and was only saved by a 
30 billion-euro bailout from the government.
The site was abandoned four years ago and investors visiting the city 
routinely ask cab drivers to take them by the shell, McDonagh, the 
head of NAMA, told lawmakers on Oct. 26.
"The Anglo building is the most toxic image of the Celtic Tiger 
years," said Paschal Mahoney, 47, an architect in Dublin who wants to 
turn the building into a so-called vertical park. "We have to 
acknowledge we have made mistakes. We don't do that by simply 
brushing them under the carpet."
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alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered that shall not be 
revealed; and nothing hid that shall not be made known. What I tell 
you in darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye hear in the 
ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend. 

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