The Square, Kilbeggan, Co. Westmeath Sale Price: €300,000 Agent: Heffernan Auctioneers (057) 932 4622
The government has developed plans and incentives to rehabilitate run-down buildings that are ravaging rural towns and villages across the country.
But historic townhouses on main streets and byways lie derelict in droves nationwide, and builders avoid them due to rising costs and obstacles. At the same time, too many cities are struggling with a lack of good housing, and prices have skyrocketed as a result.
Despite major noise programs such as the five-year Our Rural Future plan launched last year to encourage rejuvenation of rural cities; the reality on the ground, according to one brave innovator, is that there is no worthwhile help from the state. But on the contrary.
In the town of Kilbeggan in Co Westmeath, Pádraig Egan has just completed the restoration of an important part of the town’s historical and visual fabric – two striking historic houses overlooking the central square and which have been derelict for years.
Through a careful restoration process that has just been completed, Egan has saved the two 19th century houses from decay and preserved them for future generations. Today they are both BER-B apartments of almost brand new standard, one of which is now owned by Padraig’s daughter Deirdre. And now a new family is said to be living on The Square as he put the other one up for sale for €300,000.
When it comes to a key project like the rejuvenation of historic residential buildings in a town square, many would assume that this is exactly the kind of project the government was talking about. But Egan’s experience wouldn’t match that. In fact, he says, the project was plagued with tons of bureaucracy from the start, which significantly increased Egan’s costs at many steps along the way.
“The locals and neighbors are delighted with the result. They ask me if maybe I could buy another building in town and renovate it since there’s a lot of decay.” But now he’s not so enthusiastic. This bureaucracy has left a bad connotation.
The two houses likely have important historical connections to the distillery town and were built between the 1820s and 1840s when Locke’s famous distillery was being developed. “As far as I know, they had something to do with the distillery. My daughter was looking for a house and was interested in one of these but the two were for sale together and had been on the market for a number of years. We bought them for €110,000 or €55,000 each. She funded one and I funded the other.”
Both buildings had been standing idle for about 30 years and were in extremely poor condition. Not only were they a seething eyesore in the heart of the city (as Egan’s “before” photographs show), but like so many important city buildings across Ireland, they were in critical danger of failing beyond the point of recovery.
It started with the practical work. “We dug about a foot deep and put in a hard core and new insulated floors. In fact, both houses are now fully insulated, the floors, the walls, the ceilings and the attics.” He added wooden floors, fitted kitchens, tiles, all the plumbing and both are now painted in bright colors. “We installed new wooden sliding windows in the front and new wooden entrance doors. Both houses are like new from top to bottom.”
Egan renovated them together and both have been completed in the past few weeks. “Heating is oil central, we were looking to install an air-to-water system, but that has become too expensive in recent months,” he said, referring to Another problem for aspiring rural restorers: the rapidly rising costs of everything related to construction and renovation.
“Thirteen months ago I bought the first insulation boards for 38 euros each, but the last ones I bought were 69 euros each,” he said. “Nothing in the buildings surprised me. The only surprise I got was the bureaucracy involved. For example, I originally thought I had permission to do the roof, but when I finished it I was told I didn’t have permission to reslate it, so I had to apply for withholding.” Egan says he would never have been successful with only the political support of his local councilor Liam McDaniel and Senator Paul Daly.
“They talk about city rejuvenation and all that, and we looked at that in the early stages and told ourselves that there was very little funding available,” he says.
“If you got that little bit of funding they were talking about, it would go into the engineers’ reports to get everything certified. Each of these reports costs 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 euros, and if you look for three or four of them, you will not long eat up the price of a grant.”
Replacing the front doors drove him to despair. It was suggested he could repair them as they were the original front doors. “Anyone on the street could see they were galvanized and had bolts going through them. They weren’t the original front doors, they were softwood in the 1980’s and the man who made them was still alive.”
The project lasted 13 months and two weeks. Completed within the last two weeks, Deirdre has just moved into her chic, rejuvenated 19th-century town house. The finished houses that adorn Kilbeggan’s Square today are almost identical. The version for sale is two stories high with a new extension at the back to 1,668 square feet. An elegantly tiled hall leads to the living room and then to the living room with its cast iron fireplace and wooden floors.
The kitchen/dining area includes a new fitted kitchen with built in appliances whilst a sliding patio door leads to the rear garden. On the ground floor there is an en-suite bedroom, a utility room and a guest toilet. A solid wooden staircase leads to the first floor where there are three bedrooms and a bathroom. One of the bedrooms has a bay window overlooking the square, while a folding staircase leads to the attic.
A garden extends the rear of the house and fronts to Mullingar Road where it has an entrance and driveway. Despite the hurdles, Egan is very happy with the outcome of the houses. But would he do it again? “I would. If I could do this without bureaucracy!”
Inquiries to Heffernan Auctioneers in Tullamore.
https://www.independent.ie/life/home-garden/history-is-squared-in-kilbeggan-restoration-41992964.html History is squared in Kilbeggan Restoration