Saturday, 1 November 2008

No Tower yet on U2's horizon

UNCERTAINTY in the world financial markets has resulted in the flagship U2 tower planned in the Dublin Docklands being delayed by at least a year.

Negotiations between the Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) and Geranger Ltd -- a consortium made up of the band and developers -- have been suspended for at least 12 months until financial markets improve.

The €200m 36-storey skyscraper is designed by Norman Foster, and is planned for Hanover Quay in the docklands at the mouth of the River Liffey -- the site of the band's existing studio.

But yesterday it emerged that although "significant progress" had been made on the project, and the DDDA had "full confidence" it would go ahead, it was decided to suspend negotiations on the development.

Assuming it goes ahead, the tower will soar 120 metres above the docklands. It includes a public viewing platform at 100 metres, a public amenity area at the base and 34 social and affordable housing units.

At the top, the U2 studio is located in a suspended egg-shaped pod while an 'energy centre' sits at the top.

The building -- one of two landmark towers which will form a gateway to Dublin -- has been approved by planners in the DDDA. The second tower, to be called the Point Village Tower, is beside the renamed O2 arena -- formerly the Point Depot -- at the opposite side of the Liffey.

Yesterday the DDDA said that Geranger was selected as the provisional preferred bidder to design, construct and finance the U2 Tower and neighbouring Britain Quay Building late last year but "intervening market events" had made progress more difficult.

"The Docklands Authority continues to have full confidence in this landmark project for an inspirational U2 Tower building, which is an important element in the master plan for the area," the DDDA said in a statement.

"The objective is to see this landmark project completed. However, given the current unfavourable economic environment, more time is needed at this juncture.

Geranger is made up of U2 and its management, Sean Mulryan's Ballymore Properties and developer Paddy McKillen, who co-owns the Clarence Hotel on the Dublin quays with band members Bono and the Edge.

The Clarence Hotel redevelopment -- also a Norman Foster design -- will go ahead.

The project has not been without controversy. The DDDA served a compulsory purchase order on U2's Hanover Quay studio, but the band concluded a deal which allowed them to have the top two floors of the new landmark tower.

But a complicated system used to ensure the impartiality of the process meant the DDDA could not identify the first winning entry, and a "twisted tower" design from Irish firm BCDH was chosen instead.

This was later overturned in favour of the design by Norman Foster, the architect behind the iconic 'Gherkin' building in London's financial district.

The band recorded much of their new album, rumoured to be called 'No Line on the Horizon', at its Hanover Quay studios earlier this year.

Paul Melia

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