28 Shrewsbury Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
Best-known for being purchased in 2005 by businessman Niall O’Farrell, the original house standing on 28 Shrewsbury Road’s grounds was described by O’Farrell as:
“a ’70s mews that was butchered over the years with at one stage a flat-roof extension.”
The property was once a mews at the back of the former mansion at 42 Ailesbury Road, named ‘Coreen’, which originally stood on 1.5 acres. Dublin businessman Harry Crosbie, who purchased Coreen in 1983, owned a major haulage company, developed the Point Depot and also owned one of the most magnificent houses in Dalkey, Sorrento Cottage. He originally intended to erect a dozen townhouses on Coreen – however, these plans were quickly shot down by opposition from Ailesbury Road residents and Resident’s association, unsurprisingly. Eventually a redevelopment plan was agreed upon, which consisted of the demolition of Coreen and the erection of a new building with a replica facade, which housed four terraced houses. 28 was not part of this redevelopment – having already been built in the 1970s, likely by the then-owner of Coreen, aristocrat Marchese Peter Malacrida.
Crosbie himself is said to have occupied the house during his ownership of the Coreen estate, as did Claire Crosbie, Simon Crosbie and Alison Crosbie.
The house came on the open market first in 1994 as a 3,600 detached 5-bed home and was guiding £400k+ at auction, withdrawn then put back on the market at £450k in the same year. I believe the property was purchased at this time by Niall and Gracia McCormack – not Crosbie. The McCormack family, of the Alanis Capital fame, are highly involved in both the residential and commercial property market in Dublin.
Then after this, the house quietly disappeared for over a decade until it was sold in 2005 for approximately €7.5 – €8 million to none other than Shrewsbury Road resident and Black Tie owner, Niall O’Farrell. At the time, the Irish Times described the house as “one of the bargains of the year”. I suppose for the time that was in it, 2005 being possibly the most insane year for trophy sales due to the sale of Walford at €58m, the price may have seemed bargainesque. The most expensive house sold in Dublin the year before, 2004, was a mere €9m but Walford had changed everything, it automatically added millions to the already inflated values of properties on Shrewsbury Road.
O’Farrell’s initial plans were to demolish the mews and erect two semi-detached homes in its place, measuring 5770sq.ft each. The plans were ambitious for semi-detached houses on a limited plot, with the plans including features such as lifts – O’Farrell always seems to put the best of finishes in his Shrewsbury homes. However, the plans for the semis were rejected, and probably rightly so given the size of the grounds. His second plan, dating back to the end of 2009, was for a palatial 10,600sqft single home, which seemed very similar to his other home, Thorndene, on paper. The opulent plans by architects Crean Salley included features such as an underground swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi, gym, wine cellar, numbers reception rooms, 3 bedroom suites (bathroom & dressing ensuite), 6 bedrooms total, extensive staff quarters (separate bedroom, living area, dining area) and all floors serviced by a lift.
The benefits of building his new mansion on the grounds of No. 28 were obvious – he could clear a huge profit on Thorndene by selling it with an asking of €14 million, then use that money to pay whatever (if anything) he owed on the purchase price of No. 28 and use the remainder to fund the construction of his new mansion.
Unfortunately, things did not go as planned. By 2009, when Thorndene was for sale and the plans for the new home were submitted, we were already deep in recession. Thorndene failed to attract a buyer, and eventually sold in December 2012 for €5 million (a €9m reduction). In the meantime, it is possible that No. 28 was rented out as a late-1990’s silver Mercedes S-Class sat in the driveway, and Bing Maps show two dark-SUVs, possible a Range Rover Sport and something else, sitting in the driveway which suggests different residents, further hinting that it may be rented. Even in 2015, Niall McCormack still lists Number 28 as his address in company filings, despite O’Farrell buying the house in 2005, suggesting he may have agreed to rent the house from O’Farrell until he developed the house.
2013 Sale & Demolition
Alas, the house was never developed by O’Farrell and was sold in an off-market deal for €2.4 million in 2013. The buyer, who is involved in the pharmaceutics industry, sought permission numerous times to demolish the house after purchasing it. Their architect, Max O’Flaherty of Aughey O’Flaherty (AOF), is behind the extraordinary refurbishment of neighbouring Woodside and would also have headed up the refurbishment of 2 Shrewsbury Road had it not been flipped by his client.
In July 2015, the house was finally demolished to make way for a modern residence to take its place. While the owner’s initial plans were for an ultra-modern design, they were rejected and the plans with which they are proceeding are more tame and, accordingly, were not opposed by locals for once.
On the ground floor, the house will feature a large formal dining/living room, study, TV room, W.C., utility room and the standard larger-than-life open plan living/dining/kitchen that no house is seemingly complete without these days. At first floor level, there are four bedrooms, three with en suite bathroom, and one family bathroom. The master bedroom suite is perhaps the home’s most impressive room, spanning the entire depth of the house – 51 feet in total. The suite includes what is certainly one of the most expansive dressing areas featured in a private residence in Dublin – with three separate (but interconnecting) dressing rooms in total in the master suite alone, a set up that would put the best of Dublin’s boutiques to shame.
The top floor features a bedroom with library area and en suite bathroom, along with the plant room for controlling the home’s mechanics. This bedroom would make a very attractive study, with walls of glass on two sides of the room opening out to separate east-facing and west-facing terraces.
The home’s design is unmistakably modern but sympathetic to its surroundings, and certainly visually appealing. Its construction marks a departure from the pastiche homes proposed by O’Farrell and preferred in the Celtic Tiger period. The new AOF-designed house is 5,231sqft in total – a mere 900sqft more than the 4,300sqft house it is replacing, however the quality of the structure is infinitely better. The house is by all measures more practical and sustainable than that which was granted permission before, with not an elevator or underground swimming pool in sight, and ensures that the home retains a good-sized westerly garden to the rear. Number 28 has always enjoyed a very private setting and as such the house will be barely visible from the street, but the house’s exterior will be red-brick with a large number of floor-to-ceiling windows.