Monday 28 July 2008

'Northern Quarter' gets the gree light

An Bord Pleanála has today given the go-ahead for a major redevelopment by Arnotts in Dublin city centre.

The company is planning a €750 million redevelopment of a 5.5-acre block bordered by Henry Street, Middle Abbey Street, Liffey Street and O'Connell Street into a new shopping, entertainment and residential zone, called "Northern Quarter".

An Bord Pleanála gave the green light subject to 26 conditions, including the preservation of several protected buildings in the area.

An Post, An Taisce and the Rail Procurement Agency were among the parties that had appealed planning permission for the scheme, which was granted by Dublin City Council last summer.

Among the conditions laid down, an Bord Pleanála has ruled that the developer has to provide for 24-hour public access to all of the proposed new public streets and spaces, including Abbey Square.

The board also said there must also be a year-round festival ticket office at ground-floor level, appropriate childcare facilities, and an archaeological appraisal of the site.

An independent road safety audit must be done, and a parking-management plan prepared and agreed with the planning authority, the board stipulated.

Details of shopfront design - including any associated signage, lettering, lighting or security screens - is subject to a further application for planning permission.

An Arnotts spokesman said: “We are delighted with the news. It gives certainty to the very ambitious Northern Quarter project. We will work with the city council to deal with the various conditions An Bord Pleanála has made.”

The retailer refused to comment on a previous announcement that 580 of its 950 staff will be let go when the store moves temporarily to Jervis Street Shopping Centre, which is one-third the size of Henry Street site.

Boyers on North Earl Street will also be converted to an Arnotts furniture and home store.

“The news has come a bit faster than expected, so Arnotts will now sit down to assess the detail of what will happen next,” the spokesman added. “Over the next few weeks, management will also work to bring clarity to the workers.”

Linda Tanham, an official with trade union Mandate, which represents most Arnotts’ workers, said staff are still unsure as to what will happen next. “We are expecting to meet with management this week to get an update on a timescale for trading and intended job losses,” she added.

When completed, the Northern Quarter – bordered by the Middle Abbey Street, Henry Street, and Liffey Street - is expected to employ over 5,000 people, with one-fifth of those working in the new Arnotts store.

It is envisaged one of the main features will be the re-creation of Prince’s Street as an urban street and pedestrian thoroughfare with a new public square at its centre.

Welcoming the decision, Jerry Ryan, managing director of HKR Architects, said: “This is one of the largest and most significant regeneration projects to be undertaken in Dublin’s city centre and is an exciting and challenging project for HKR.“

Gina Quin, chief executive of Dublin Chamber of Commerce, said the massive redevelopment will reinvigorate the heart of Dublin city centre.

“Not only will it have a significant impact on the city’s retail variety and range of offerings, but this development will also help to transform the Henry Street area into a vibrant residential, leisure and entertainment hub,” she said.

“The Northern Quarter will offer residents, shoppers and tourists a wide range of activities in the evenings and will play an important part in the transformation of Dublin’s city centre into that of a world class city with a quality of life that is second to none.”

The Construction Industry Federation said the scheme will make a huge contribution to the sector.

“There are a number of large scale projects in the pipeline or which have already begun and the Arnotts redevelopment is a huge construction opportunity, particularly for those in commercial construction,” a said spokesman.

In April, an Bord Pleanála had rejected several aspects of the development, which is planned for the site of the department store in Dublin - including a proposed 16-storey tower.

The board told Arnotts to cut the height of the tower by nine storeys and ensure that no other building in the development was higher than seven.

In its letter to Arnotts, the board said then the development would be "unduly obtrusive on the skyline" and would "seriously detract from the balance and architectural coherence of these streets".

Irish Times

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