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Published in Commercial Property on 03/05/2017

Unicorn Restaurant Site on Sale for €9M


CNI Editor reports

Dublin’s once famous Unicorn restaurant on Merrion Row, close to the Shelbourne Hotel in the city centre, will form the centrepiece of a large redevelopment site to be offered for sale from Wednesday in a fast-improving restaurant, retail market and entertainment market.

Peter Stapleton of Lisney is to invite offers of about €9 million for the site, which includes the Unicorn and three adjoining buildings. The area is noted for its vibrant street life and lively business and entertainment facilities.

Three of the properties in the “Merrion collection” have leases that run out next year, while the fourth lease expires in 2020.

The four properties are producing a rental income of €433,000. Depending on the preferred timescale for the new development, new owners should be in a position to extend the present leases until they are ready to commence redevelopment.

An investment syndicate known as Ruby Point Ltd, led by Liam Shanahan and John Coulter, is understood to have spent well in excess of €5 million on assembling the site. The existing buildings are relatively small, extending to a mere 8,800sq ft over two floors. A yard in front of the Unicorn, occasionally used as a car park, is expected to be included in the new development.

New owners will inevitably seek planning approval for a four- or five-storey block, with restaurants and other retail use on the ground floor and at least 15 apartments on the upper floors.

An obvious reference point from a planning point of view is the modern five-storey over-ground floor office block occupied by the Department of Finance on the opposite side of Merrion Row.

Ruby Point assembled much of the site in 2014. It bought adjoining buildings at 13 and 13A Merrion Row, 12 A-D Merrion Court and 5 Merrion Court to provide a long-term investment opportunity grounded by its central location between the five-star Shelbourne and Merrion hotels.

Early surrender

The syndicate is believed to have paid about €3.5 million for the Unicorn restaurant and adjoining retail premises fronting on to Merrion Row, now rented by the UK-based Nationwide Building Society at €58,000 per annum.

While the society’s lease does not run out until 2020, it is expected to look for an earlier surrender of the lease now in light of its decision to withdraw from the Irish market following the Brexit vote.

The Unicorn and five overhead apartments are currently let to Advance Point Ltd at a combined rent of €185,000.

Ruby Point also bought the piano bar at the rear of the Unicorn for close to €500,000 and now rents it at €40,000 per annum. The fourth component of the site, the former Unicorn coffee shop next to Nationwide (bought from Dublin City Council for an undisclosed figure) has been leased in recent years to the adjoining Marcel’s bar and restaurant for €150,000 per annum.

The Mercantile Group’s lease of these premises runs out in April 2018.

Irish Times