NORTHERN QUARTER: THE €750 million Northern Quarter, conceived by Arnotts, was to see the transformation of 5.5 acres of land in the north inner city into a new shopping, entertainment and residential area.
Arnotts unveiled details of its ambitions in September 2006, applying for planning permission for a development of 47 shops, 189 apartments, a 152-bed four-star hotel and 17 cafes, restaurants and bars, a roof garden and underground parking for 700 vehicles.
After the company was taken private in June 2003 for €255 million, management started to acquire a large portfolio of property in the area and executive chairman Richard Nesbitt hinted that it would soon develop “the sort of world-class retailing that you would expect for the centre of a capital city”. Announcing the scheme in 2006, Mr Nesbitt said: “The Northern Quarter will write the next chapter in the evolving history of Dublin city, retaining the charm of an open-street environment but overlaying it with the dynamism and diversity of a modern European capital.”
The plan was to recreate Prince’s Street as a pedestrian thoroughfare connecting O’Connell Street to Henry Street with a public square at the heart of the development. Arnotts, which has traded on Henry Street for 167 years, was to be demolished and replaced with a new 30,000sq m store, trading over six levels.
When completed, the Northern Quarter – bordered by Middle Abbey Street, Henry Street and Liffey Street – was expected to employ over 5,000 people, with one-fifth in the new Arnotts store.
Arnotts was to provide 80 per cent of the funding but sought strategic partners for the remainder. HKR Architects were employed to consult on the project and subject to permission it was expected to be complete in 2010 and generate 1,000 construction jobs.
In July 2008, An Bord Pleanála gave Arnotts the green light for the development with planning permission granted subject to 26 conditions, including the preservation of several protected buildings and a stipulation that the development be lower rise with fewer car spaces. It was reported that Dublin City Council was planning to use compulsory purchase orders to acquire properties to facilitate the development of the scheme.
As late as August 2009, the council’s weekly planning list shows it was requesting more information on the project.