Friday 31 August 2007

Dunne showcases his 37 storeys of towering ambition

THOSE who thought hard-nosed multi-millionaire developer Sean Dunne was out to make a killing with his billion-euro plans for leafy Dublin 4 may have got it all wrong. The massive 37-storey development which will see luxury apartments sell for up to €10m is apparently an exercise in philanthropy, judging by his remarks yesterday.

"It will achieve the almost incredible task of giving almost nine acres back to the people," Mr Dunne said yesterday.

He plans to build shops, restaurants and art galleries on the seven-acre site, which will result in nine acres of amenities - across a number of floors - that will also be accessible to the public.

Far from tearing the heart and soul from the cherished suburb, as some have feared, he is in fact reviving a cultural desert to judge from yesterday's remarks.

Mr Dunne yesterday explained: "Ballsbridge has for a long time been wrongly portrayed by some as a village, whereas in actual fact it is a national centre in that it houses the home of Irish rugby, the headquarters of AIB, 1.5m square feet of offices and is home to 29 embassies," he said.


"What was considered modern office space in the 1960s and early 1970s has now reached the end of its useful life and the cycle of developing Ballsbridge for the 21st century is now ready to commence.

"While the Jury's/Berkeley Court site measures seven acres, Mountbrook has achieved the almost incredible feat of giving back nearly nine acres to the people of Dublin," he said.

So Dubliners may now look forward to getting their hands on a two-bedroom apartments in Ireland's tallest building with price tags of €1.2m each.

And residents in the exclusive Jury's/Berkeley Court site in leafy Dublin 4 will be using free electric cars to travel about the city.

Yesterday the Carlow businessman and multi-millionaire unveiled his €1bn proposal for the central seven-acre site which will see a 37-storey building -- over twice the height of Liberty Hall -- constructed in the heart of the embassy belt.

He hopes to create a diplomatic quarter by providing office space for 29 embassies, as well as building 536 apartments, an ice-rink, cinema, offices, shopping mall, bars, restaurants and a "cultural quarter" with artists' studios. A 232-bedroom hotel is also in the proposal.

His ambitious plans for the 123-metre building would also see the development being 75pc "carbon neutral" -- meaning no carbon dioxide would be eased from the complex -- rising to 100pc as technology continues to improves.

This will be achieved by using "green" building materials, biomass heating systems and a unique "triple glazed" facade on the landmark diamond-shaped tower.

He also proposes providing electric cars to ferry residents across the city in an effort to promote its "green" credentials. The design team says it takes best practice and "takes it further" to make the complex among the most environmentally-friendly ever built here.

The plans will be lodged with Dublin City Council this morning, but Mr Dunne faces an uphill battle to get planning permission. Councillors have already rejected plans to allow high-rise buildings in Dublin 4, and 15pc of the site is not currently zoned for commercial use.

However, the Dublin City Development Plan, the planning bible which dictates what buildings may be constructed throughout the city, is due to be revised in 2011 and it is hoped that councillors will have warmed to his plans by that stage and allow the development proceed.

The seven-acre site was acquired for €378m and construction costs will be €1bn. The complex, if granted planning permission, will be completed by 2014. Two-bedroom apartments will cost €1.2m, with four-bedroom units costing €10m.

Yesterday Mr Dunne, whose company Mountbrook is behind the scheme, said his plans replaced the "outmoded and ugly" buildings which had "no architectural value" in Dublin 4.

This would be achieved by providing three acres of public streets, while shopping mall, bars and the cultural quarter would provide another 5.85 acres. The landmark tower is designed by architect Ulrik Raysse, who said yesterday it would become a "beacon" for the cultural quarter.

"It has its own special geometry and materiality," he said. "It is cut like a diamond. It was a great opportunity to place a landmark building here. It was crucial for us to position the cultural programme at the base of the tower, so that the tower is not solely the landmark for the redevelopment of Ballsbridge, but also becomes a beacon for the cultural centre."

Three acres of landscaping will also be included, and the plans will be on public display until Sunday at the Berkeley Court Hotel in Ballsbridge from noon until 6pm.

Irish Independent

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