PLANS TO redevelop the Carlton cinema site on Dublin's O'Connell Street have been substantially revised by Chartered Land to meet concerns expressed by city council planners - particularly about a "park in the sky".
Responding to a request last June for further information on the €1.25 billion scheme, which would cover an area of more than five acres, the development company has reduced the overall height of several buildings and reorientated the proposed park.
As originally envisaged, this sloping park would have faced northeast on top of a building with a height of 50m. But under the revised plan, the building's height has been reduced to 35m and the park reorientated to face south.
There has been a corresponding reduction in the height at the corner of Henry and Moore streets, from an 11-storey tower to a four-storey building comparable in scale with Debenham's, although it would project outwards. In addition, a residential block on Parnell Street has been reduced in height from nine storeys to seven to address concerns raised by the planners and others about its potentially obtrusive impact on views from the Rotunda Hospital and Parnell Square.
High-level restaurants are to be relocated to ground level on the O'Connell Street and Moore Street frontages of the site. The number of restaurants proposed for Moore Street has been doubled with the aim of turning it into a "food destination" area.
But the principal revision by Dublin Central Architects - a partnership formed by BKD, Donnelly Turpin and McGarry Ní Eanaigh - involves turning around the rooftop park and providing a "grand civic staircase" (supplemented by lifts) leading up to it from Moore Street.
The apartment building on which it would be laid out has been reduced to a maximum height of eight storeys, so as to protect sightlines from O'Connell Street and preserve the existing parapet lines of buildings along the west side of the street. The proposed staircase would rise from a new public space at the rear of four buildings on Moore Street, which were designated as a national monument because of their link with the 1916 Rising. The character of this street would also be "reinforced".
Another significant change involves the splayed opening on to O'Connell Street which, at 35m, was regarded by the planners as too wide. Under the revised plan, it would be fronted by a "screen" of thin, paired columns topped by a flat canopy.
Michael McGarry of Dublin Central Architects said this contemporary portico was designed to maintain the continuity of the "wall" and was on a scale "echoing the great civic gestures, such as the GPO, that are part of the unique character of O'Connell Street". Dominic Deeny, chief executive of Chartered Land, said the latest plans "take full cognisance" of Dublin City Council's request for additional information and respect the council's development plan and its future intentions on density and height.
"We have also taken the opportunity to address many of the observations made by third parties. I believe we have been able to preserve the integrity of our overall plan, while looking at how we are treating the historic nature of the overall site."
It includes a total of 12 protected structures, including the art deco facade of the former Carlton cinema, which would be relocated 40m north of its current position to create a new public space off O'Connell Street that would be open day and night. The revised plans also see the preservation and restoration of the facades of numbers 43-45 O'Connell Street as well as the full conservation and restoration of number 42, which is the only original Georgian house on the street to survive intact.
Although parts of the site have been derelict for nearly 30 years, Mr Deeny said Chartered Land was "committed to delivering this scheme which will create a vibrant new urban quarter on O'Connell Street and reinstate it as the city's premier thoroughfare".
Subject to planning permission being granted, the scheme - called "Dublin Central" - would incorporate two new streets and three new squares under a "rainscreen" canopy as well as 69 apartments, 17 restaurants and more than 100 new retail outlets.
Chartered Land, controlled by low-profile developer Joe O'Reilly, is one of Ireland's leading commercial property firms. Its portfolio includes shopping centres in Dundrum and Swords and a half-share in the Ilac Centre on Moore Street.
It also developed the new five-storey block of offices and shops beside the Gaiety Theatre on South King Street and is building the 2,000-seat Grand Canal Theatre in Docklands and two adjoining office blocks, all designed by Studio Daniel Libeskind.
The Irish Times