September 26, 2022

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The old Jurys Hotel in Ballsbridge, which has been designated as a new site for the US embassy, could be used to accommodate Ukrainian refugees or students on an interim basis, under proposals submitted to the Government.

Dublin City councillors in May of last year approved a request from the US state department to rezone the hotel, which closed in 2019, so it could be developed for a new embassy. It said it had outgrown its current 1960s building across the road from the hotel.

The US government has reached an agreement to buy the former hotel from developer Joe O’Reilly’s Chartered Land. But it intends to retain the distinctive 1964 embassy building, set on a triangular site at the junction of Elgin and Pembroke Roads, for up to a decade while construction takes place on the Jurys site.

Labour city Cllr Dermot Lacey approached ambassador Claire Cronin recently as well as Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman, Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien and Minister for Higher Education Simon Harris to ask that the empty hotel building be considered for use on a temporary basis.

“Given that it is not long since the hotel was fully operating the possibility of providing quickly short-term accommodation for either of the above should be explored as a matter of urgency,” Mr Lacey wrote. “I would ask that the Embassy and the three relevant Government Department[s] would actively engage to see that this facility is used productively at this time of huge national need.”

A response from the embassy, seen by The Irish Times, said the “plight of Ukrainian refugees” was a matter of “the highest importance” to the United States and it “would be amenable to discussing any proposal”.

However, while it had an “option to refuse any proposed use of the property” and Chartered Land “would have to consult us regarding any potential housing situation” it did not yet have full ownership of the hotel, so “unfortunately we do not have an affirmative right to greenlight any housing agreement”.

Unhappy councillor

A spokeswoman for Chartered Land said the hotel was no longer habitable.

“The hotel has been vacant for a number of years and is ready for demolition. Considerable works would be required to bring the building back to a habitable standard.”

There had been contact between Chartered Land and the Department of Integration she said, but “given the time needed for such works, the considerable investment required, and the relatively short window of availability it was agreed that the proposition was unviable”.

Mr Lacey said he did not consider this response acceptable.

“I find it very hard to believe it is not possible to bring this hotel back into use, given it was in use so recently. The GAA [and] other sporting organisations are pulling out all the stops to make their facilities available and given the embassy would be receptive to discussing the idea, this just seems like an excuse.”

A spokesman for Mr O’Gorman’s department said it was “unable to comment on potential contractors or contractual matters due to the commercially sensitive nature of this information”.

Jurys Doyle sold the hotel and the adjoining Berkeley Court to developer Sean Dunne for a record €240 million in 2005.

Chartered Land bought the hotels from Mr Dunne’s lender, Ulster Bank, in 2015 for €170 million.

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