A PROPOSAL to locate a branch of German low-cost supermarket Lidl in the former Habitat furniture store on Dublin’s College Green has been scrapped in favour of redeveloping the building as a “Viennese-style” cafe.
Dublin City Council has granted permission to Pixtell Ltd to change the building from a retail premises to a licensed restaurant.
Pixtell is controlled by Tony Leonard, who, with Paddy McKillen, bought the former Bank of Ireland branch in 2002 for €22 million, before leasing it to Habitat. The furniture store closed last May following what it described as a severe deterioration in sales. Habitat had hoped to sell on its lease, and Lidl was among a small number of parties who expressed an interest in the site.
However, the supermarket chain was reportedly unwilling to pay the €2 million, reduced from an initial €3 million, asked by Habitat.
The lease has since been returned to Pixtell, who remain the owners of the premises, and the company has decided to convert the building into a cafe/restaurant instead of seeking another retail lease with Lidl or any other firm.
The planning permission sought, and granted, is unlikely to be appealed to An Bord Pleanála, as it involves a substantial restoration of the original fabric of the mid-19th century building.
The recently added mezzanine floor is to be removed, and the wall between the protected period property and the modern building that adjoins it on Suffolk Street, which was part of the Habitat store, is to be rebuilt.
The application was referred to An Taisce, which said it welcomed the proposal for a Viennese-style cafe as long as the architectural character of the building was maintained and enhanced.
It also said a condition should be imposed to ensure that any alcohol sales on the premises should be in the context of a restaurant only and not a pub or nightclub.
The city council attached a condition that the building not be used as a public house or nightclub.
The section of the Habitat store fronting on to Suffolk Street will remain separate from the cafe and is likely to be leased as a clothing store.