IT has emerged that university authorities recently approved plans to purchase two properties adjacent to the Belfield campus. Specific details of price and location have not been disclosed, but the Bursar, Gerry O’Brien, noted that “the purchase makes sense both strategically and commercially”. The proposals were announced at a meeting of the Finance, Remuneration, and Asset Management Committee (FRAMC) in November last year.
It was noted by the Committee that the University has been purchasing “a number of properties adjacent to the Belfield campus” since 2008. It was not disclosed what properties were being referred to. The Committee approved funds to make an offer on the two properties.
The news comes amidst revelations last year that UCD had no plans to further develop a 3-acre site it acquired through a 2007 land deal made with Denis O’ Brien. This land, adjacent to the Belgrove accommodation, now contains a small car park. At the time of the deal, it was proposed that student accommodation would be built on the site. The university was subsequently criticised for rushing the deal, which in turn led to the university placing a short-term profit above a longer-term financial dividend, due to the finances of the university at the time of the economic downturn.
As part of this same deal, UCD gave up land near the N11 that may have been suitable for student accommodation. Denis O’Brien has recently secured planning permission to build luxury apartments on the site, which are expected to sell for up to €50 million in the current housing climate.
It appears that the new properties to be purchased will not form part of UCD’s 10 year “Residences Masterplan”. This leaves questions as to what use will be made of the new properties if purchased. The Masterplan proposes to add 3,000 bedrooms to campus over 10 years, and will cost around €370 million.
Work is underway on the first phase of the plan, which is expected to add 900 bedrooms. The cost of this phase has not yet been disclosed. A cost benefit analysis and risk assessment were approved, and a phased approach was emphasised to “reduce risk”, and that the project would not proceed if it was not deemed to be financially viable.