Building behind the loan: Dublin’s brutalist Central Plaza

'An exercise in how to do the greatest urban damage with only eight storeys' has been given a new lease of life with help from Cheyne Capital.

In October, alternative lender Cheyne Capital provided an €80 million senior loan to the owners of Dublin’s Central Plaza mixed-use scheme, a project that includes the former home of the Central Bank of Ireland – a building that is no stranger to controversy.

Designed by renowned architect Sam Stephenson, the building was criticised for its appearance when it completed in 1979. Its eight floors were suspended by external bars, giving it an exoskeletal structure, making it stand out for public comment.

In 1972, having seen early designs, London-based magazine Architects’ Journal described it as “an exercise in how to do the greatest urban damage with only eight storeys”.

Out with the old

Stephenson himself attracted praise and criticism. Most notably, he designed the state-owned Irish electricity company ESB’s offices in Fitzwilliam Street, which resulted in the semi-demolition of the once longest intact street of Georgian architecture anywhere in the world.

But by the time he died in 2006, Central Bank (as it was then known) had come to dominate his legacy, as his obituary in The Irish Times noted: “It is often overlooked that Stephenson was responsible for other brilliantly designed structures in addition to the Central Bank, which has an international reputation.”

The building also now has international owners. US manager Hines and Peterson Group – a real estate family business owned by Hong Kong’s Yeung family – bought the dilapidated property in 2017 and completed a regeneration project on the site in 2022.

But now, among Central Plaza’s 100,000 square feet of office space, sits another talking point. Flexible office operator WeWork is due to open a 73,000-square-foot co-working space in May next year. News of the loan from Cheyne came just days before WeWork filed for bankruptcy in the US, on 7 November.

Cheyne stated WeWork had financially committed to the building, after the company announced, only in September, it had committed to the fit-out of the scheme. With the facelift of Central Plaza, which had recently become dilapidated, Hines and Peterson have given the building a lease of new life. Whether one of its notable tenants will be equally blessed is a question yet to be answered.

Timeline

1970s Designed by Sam Stephenson of architect firm Stephenson Gibney Associates

1978 Built as the home of the Central Bank of Ireland

2017 The Central Bank moves to Dublin’s Docklands, and Hines and Peterson Group acquire the building with the aim of redeveloping the asset

2018 WeWork leases office space in its entirety (73,000 square feet) on a 20-year term

2022 Central Plaza redevelopment is completed

2023 WeWork commits to a fit-out of the office space, then files for bankruptcy in the US

2024 The WeWork One Central Plaza is set to open its doors in May

Image: Cheyne Capital