Sunday 13 September 2009

Arnotts €1bn shops scheme under threat

Concerns about revised proposals for Arnotts' €1bn Northern Quarter retail scheme have been raised by Dublin city planners.

Arnotts got the go-ahead last year for the massive redevelopment, which will be located in an area bounded by Henry Street, O'Connell Street, Abbey Street and Liffey Street.

However, An Bord Pleanála ruled that the project could only proceed if a planned 16-storey tower in the original design was omitted. In total, the board tagged on 26 separate conditions to its grant of permission, including the preservation of several protected buildings in the area.

Arnotts Properties Ltd then submitted its revised plans and the city council has now expressed reservations about the new blueprint.

Among the major changes being applied for is a redesign of the so-called Block A - from a seven-storey building over three basement levels, to an eight-storey building over three basement levels. This would increase the over-ground height of the tower from 18m to 31.5m.

Arnotts is proposing to increase the overall ground floor area of the scheme from 125,864sq m to 128,726sq m.

In a request for additional information, city planners have asked the applicant to submit a further architectural justification and revised drawings for the 'proposed retention of the Chapters Bookstore facade in Block A1 facing onto Abbey Street.

'The applicant is advised to note that the planning authority has concerns regarding how the retention of this facade sits within the context of proposed scale and welcomed simplicity of the grid framed retail store', they said.

In addition, Arnotts has been requested to redesign the facade fronting onto Henry Street, having regard to 'the building's location in a sensitive streetscape and the building's role in framing/defining the entrance onto Princes Street North'.

Commenting on the revised plans, Kevin Duff of An Taisce pointed out the proposed modifications include the location of a primary building fronting onto Middle Abbey Street, at the corner of Upper Liffey Street.

"These modifications entail a significant change to the height and design of the proposed development in this area," said Mr Duff - who added the revisions "depart excessively" from the plans approved by An Bord Pleanála.

He added - "(The) proposed overall height of this part of the development now closely matches its height as approved .... by Dublin City Council and as subsequently significantly reduced by An Bord Pleanála."

Arnotts must respond to the council's request for further information within six months.

Irish Times

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