Tuesday 29 September 2009

RTÉ planning €360m revamp

A €360 MILLION redevelopment of the RTÉ Montrose site will be funded mainly through borrowing and the rental of offices and residences at the broadcasting hub.

The national broadcaster yesterday unveiled an ambitious 15-year plan to put in place the sort of modern facilities necessary for the digital age.

The bulldozing of landmark buildings at the Donnybrook studios is expected to begin in late 2011, if planning permission is secured.

RTÉ said the redevelopment would not be funded through TV licence fees.

The project will see a gradual replacement of most of the 1960s and 1970s buildings.

Announcing the five-phase development, RTÉ director general Cathal Goan said: "Clearly this is not an ideal time to be announcing a large proposed construction project. But to remain competitive and to continue to give Irish viewers, listeners and web-users the best possible services, we have to invest in new facilities built for the digital age."

RTÉ announced the huge building plan ahead of submitting a 10-year planning application to Dublin City Council, in advance of the authority’s review of land rezoning next month.

The proposal includes mixed zoning, including residential units to the front of the 32-acre site which will either be rented or possibly sold. New offices and multimedia facilities will also be rented and are expected to help fund the loan.

Montrose staff will be given an opportunity to view the plans from 10am today, and trade unions and management were briefed yesterday on the project.

RTÉ will continue to broadcast while the new buildings will be constructed at the Donnybrook village end of the land. It is expected that 670 construction jobs will be provided during the project.

It will be built in five phases, depending on finances available. RTÉ have also not ruled out not being able to complete the huge plan, and have prioritised its new high-definition studios, which will cost €140m.

"We are confident that the most cost-effective, sustainable and technically robust option available is to reconfigure our existing site and incorporate all facilities into a single new building," Mr Goan said.

Under the plans, sections of the new building, which will take up nearly half the Donnybrook site, will rise to 33 metres, double that of the current highest building.

RTÉ senior officials are keen to have state-of-the-art digital and online facilities by 2012, to compete with other broadcasters like the BBC.

During planning, officials were sent abroad to look at other studios in Denmark, Finland, Scotland and Hungary.

The new building will also save electricity with better insulation and construction. At present, Montrose uses the same amount of electricity as Kilkenny city.

Most of the €360m will be borrowed on the basis of revenue from renting future facilities.

Some funds will also come from its cash reserves and upkeep budget.

RTÉ have not ruled out any joint venture on parts of the site and expect it will be 2016 at the earliest before sections are completed.

Changes will include doubling the audience capacity for the Late Late Show from 400 to 800.

Irish Examiner


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