Wednesday 12 November 2008

Dublin City Council gets in all on the move toward tall buildings

PLANS FOR the regeneration of the George's Quay area, which would allow the construction of a 22-storey tower opposite the Custom House, are to be released for public consultation by Dublin City Council early next year.

City councillors, who were shown a draft of the plan this week, have raised concerns about the effect a high-rise tower would have on the historic core of the city, particularly the Custom House, Trinity College and O'Connell Bridge.

The council is seeking to develop a new "midtown" for the city through the regeneration of the area on the south side of the Liffey stretching from Hawkins Street to Lombard Street and south from the river to Townsend Street and part of Pearse Street.

The draft George's Quay Master Plan proposes the demolition of Hawkins House, the current headquarters of the Department of Health; the redevelopment of Tara Street station with the potential for a 22, 14 and 12-storey building "cluster" and the construction of two new towers of up to 15 storeys, the height of Liberty Hall, at City Quay.

If, following public consultation, the plan is ratified by the city councillors, it would be incorporated into the city development plan and used as a template for development in the area.

The plan was written without reference to the council's recent Maximising the City's Potential document which sets out the principles for locating high-rise buildings.

This document does list Tara Street as a location where a building of more than 16-storeys could be allowed. However, the George's Quay Master Plan is the first indication that a building of up to 22-storeys could be built at Tara Street. If constructed such a tower would be 1½ times the height of Liberty Hall and would be the tallest structure near the historic centre of the city.

Labour councillor Mary Freehill said the tower would destroy the setting of the Custom House.

"To allow a 22-storey building opposite the finest Gandon building in Dublin is absolute madness."

Labour's Kevin Humphreys said a photo montage of the potential effect of the building on O'Connell Bridge and Trinity College confirmed his worst fears about its intrusion on the historic core of the city.

Despite being just minutes from the principal shopping district of the city, the area to the east and west of Tara Street is primarily office land and there are several vacant or derelict sites which contribute to a "lack of vibrancy" in the area, the council said.

The plan identifies three general sectors for development, the Hawkins House area, the Tara Street Station area and the City Quay area. The Hawkins House sector extends from the Department of Health building to the Screen Cinema on the corner of Townsend Street and Hawkins Street. Most of the buildings in this area would be demolished and redeveloped as a commercial and residential scheme with a new diagonal street leading from College Green to Tara Street station.

The plan acknowledges that this site is unlikely to be redeveloped all at once, but as each landowner undertakes redevelopment they would fit in with the plan. While the plan does not mention the demolition of the Screen Cinema, it says this location would be suitable for a 10-storey building.

Tara Street would be transformed into a tree-lined boulevard with bicycle lanes. The station, with its new high-rise buildings would incorporate shops, restaurants and offices as well as being a transport hub. The church and school at City Quay would remain and the residential quality of the area would be improved.

The Irish Times

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