Subscriber OnlyCommercial Property

UK developer acquires Independent House for student accommodation in €8m deal

Former headquarters of Independent Newspapers, dormant since 2003, to provide 280 bed spaces

UK-headquartered property developer Summix Capital has acquired the former headquarter offices of Independent Newspapers on Middle Abbey Street in Dublin city centre.

While the value of the deal for Independent House has not been disclosed, The Irish Times understands the company paid fashion retailer Penneys about €8 million to secure ownership of the onetime home of the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Evening Herald newspapers. The price represents a premium of around 33 per cent on the €6 million Penneys’ parent company, Primark, paid when it acquired the building from receivers in 2013.

Independent House was to have formed part of the “Northern Quarter” retail district planned by Arnotts before the department store was taken over by the banks in 2010. The 1920s building had been acquired by the ill-fated scheme’s promoters from Independent Newspapers’ then-owner, INM (Independent News & Media), in an off-market deal for €26 million in 2003 and has been dormant ever since.

While it had been reported last year that Primark was to initiate a search for a development partner with a view to redeveloping the property as a hotel or offices, that plan did not proceed.


Summix Capital, a company which specialises in urban regeneration in the UK and Ireland, says it now intends to fully restore and transform the landmark building into a 280-bed student-accommodation facility.

Located between 87-93 Middle Abbey Street and Princes Street and adjacent to O’Connell Street, Independent House is a protected structure comprising several buildings extending to an overall floor area of 10,600sq m (114,000sq ft) on a site of 0.29 hectares (0.72 acres). The plan by Summix Capital to restore and convert the property into student accommodation is an ambitious one given its status as a protected structure.

In a submission to An Bord Pleanála last November, the building’s previous owner, Primark, had sought to have it excluded from the new residential zoned land tax (RZLT), arguing that it was not suitable for conversion to residential use.

While the site is zoned for a mix of uses including residential, Primark claimed the protected status of the building, “contamination on site” on account of daily printing operations and the risk of flooding mitigated against its conversion to apartments.

However, the board’s inspector determined that Primark had not demonstrated these were issues that could not be overcome in the development process and the land should be included on Dublin City Council’s RZLT maps.

Commenting on her company’s purchase of Independent House and its plans for the building, Niamh O’Connor, executive director with Summix Capital, said: “We are thrilled to acquire Independent House and very excited with the prospect of reinstating one of the city’s landmark buildings and establishing a new community in this area.

“The next chapter for Independent House will seek to bring modern, purpose-built student accommodation into the heart of the city and to an area already seeing significant change and regeneration.

“Middle Abbey Street is a busy commercial district and stands at the focal point of Dublin’s public transport system with the Luas red and green lines and the city’s bus networks converging on our doorstep.

“This creates fantastic connectivity to all of Dublin’s college campuses and other city amenities, for our future student residents.”

The sale of Independent House was brokered by Ebba Mowat of Savills.

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Property Editor of The Irish Times