Ireland will be taking its turn in the six-month rotation of the European Union presidency starting in January. After five long years of fiscal crisis, there appears to be some stabilization in Ireland’s commercial real estate sector, according to a CBRE report issued in November, citing four consecutive quarters of positive returns.

“Indeed, the last two months have seen a very significant increase in the volume of activity in all sectors of the Irish commercial property market,” says Marie Hunt, executive director and head of research at CBRE. “Transactional activity in all sectors has escalated over the course of the autumn. If this continues, a busy 2013 is in prospect. “

According to the Financial Times, international private equity firms are coming back into the market, with Blackstone, Apollo Global Management, and Kennedy Wilson buying almost 400 million euros (approx. $522 million) worth of distressed loans and commercial property.

“There are signs of life returning to the Irish merger and acquisition market, and that is largely driven by a lot of international private equity interest,”  Michael Neary, head of corporate finance at Grant Thornton, told  Financial Times.

Brian Moran, managing director of Hines Ireland and newly named ULI national council chair for Ireland, says there are “green shoots,” but notes that they must be nurtured.

A Dublin native, Moran previously worked for Hines in Russia during the 1990s. After leaving Hines, Moran ran his own Dublin-based investing and advisory firm called Urban Capital for nine years, before rejoining Hines in charge of the company’s new Irish operation in the spring of 2011.

Moran said that there is no shortage of investable capital in Ireland, but that liquidity can be an issue, as some distressed or underwater properties are still not being utilized or brought to market. “In some ways, Ireland is further down the curve than some of the other European nations,” says Moran.

One of the projects Moran said is of particular focus is the Dublin Docklands, a carbon-neutral, transit-oriented development, which includes a convention center, previously featured in Urban Land. Moran said the Docklands area was a key source of foreign-direct investment under the previous boom, before falling on hard times and being taken over by Dublin city council.

Housing will be another topic of interest for ULI Ireland, says Moran, including the increased inclusion of affordable housing in development plans. “The practice is still evolving,” says Moran. “How is it going to be financed, how is it going to work?”

Ireland is still suffering the effects of the housing bust. According to, home prices are still 50 percent below the 2007 peak, and unemployment stands around 14 percent.