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Destruction of O'Connell Street Streetscape for planned 'Dublin Central' Development

Updated: Mar 13

Dublin Central

Last June, the so-called (Moore St. – Parnell St. – O’ Connell St. shopping centre) complex, described as ‘Dublin Central) was submitted to the city council planners, the developers seem to think that overall permission is a certainty.

June 2021 Planning Application

The Hammerson (Dublin Central) application is under review by Dublin City Council Planning Department. The planning application was made as a bundle of three applications issued on the same day to Dublin City Council.

In terms of opposition to this massive scheme, the most pressing issue is O'Connell street and the destruction that is planned for the upper end of this great street.

'Dublin Central' in 2008

In 2008, when the original Chartered Land scheme was launched (just before the global property collapse), the so-called 'Dublin Central' scheme, included the Carlton Cinema site and several buildings on O'Connell St, the development was described as aspiring “to become an Irish Bond Street and home to fashion icons such as Prada, Armani, Tommy Hilfiger and high-end jewellers.

Interestingly, this press rhetoric was curiously unrelated to the growing indications of a global property collapse. In addition, the development would have "the first apartments in 250 years being built on O'Connell Street". (Irish Independent, 2008 [BM1]).

Henry Street and 'Dublin Central'

A linking street, would link Henry Street to O'Connell Street "and be host to high-street retailers such as Zara and Mango; while the other will link O'Connell Street to Moore Street."

In 2014, Dublin City Council (DCC) offered property developers Chartered Land a land swap at the site of the planned 1916 Heritage Centre on Moore Street [BM2].

NAMA Loan Sale

In 2015, UK property group Hammerson announced that it planned to buy Project Jewel, (including the Dublin Central site), from Nama for about €1.85 billion - It was NAMA's largest ever property settlement. Hammerson accordingly received the properties, including Dublin Central, in July 2016[BM3] .

Moore Street. to O’ Connell Street

There were (2008) and are to be two new streets created, the implications for turning O'Connell St. into an access route for Moore St. (a minor by-street) have never been discussed. Also, there is to be demolition of several buildings in O'Connell St., with facades only retained, a point rarely emphasised or mentioned in commentary on the subject. A new street would have linked Henry Street to O'Connell Street 'and be host to high-street retailers such as Zara and Mango;’ while the other will link O'Connell Street to Moore Street.

Although the current proposal is focused mostly on Moore St., significant destruction of Dublin's historic core, Parnell and O'Connell St will face significant destruction, a continuance of destructive policies designed to facilitate development at any cost.

O’ Connell Street and Parnell St. buildings to be demolished

One example of buildings to be demolished with the facades retained is 71 Parnell Street. The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage states that the "building is a rare nineteenth-century survivor on a street blighted by 1970s road widening schemes and unsympathetic recent commercial developments. Therefore, it provides historical context for this street. Its staggered facade is unusual and its location opposite the Rotunda Hospital, gives it further context.

Formerly known as Great Britain Street, Parnell Street was laid out in the early eighteenth century, and completed by 1760." In short, No.71 is the last survivor of state- led destruction of a unique architectural fabric and is also now slated for demolition.

Scale of O' Connell St Destruction

There are numerous buildings in O' Connell St. slated for demolition as part of the ‘Dublin Central’ (here centred around the Savoy Cinema) scheme. It should be noted that all of these are in good to excellent condition, apart from the Savoy, (which is not in a ruinous condition),

These are No.’s 70, (late 18th or early 19th century), 71, (end of 18th Century, very early 19th century).

42 O’Connell St., Dublin 1. This is a unique 18th century building, including O’Connell Hall, 1892, and again unique as a 19th century surviving ballroom.

44 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, reconstructed after 1922, internally similar to a 18th century structure, and is a protected structure.

45 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, built in 1789 of Portland stone, a protected structure and unique in Dublin City, the façade reflects 18th century architecture as application acknowledges.

52-54 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1., (Carlton Cinema), a protected art deco structure, unique in Dublin. 55-56 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, rebuilt in 1931.

57 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, a (Carroll's Gift’s shop) red brick structure and protected. It was rebuilt in 1926 after destruction in 1922.

58 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, another protected building, rebuilt in 1920's it shares an interior lightwell with No.57.

The application acknowledges that these are fine examples of 1920s architecture.

No. 59 O’Connell St. (Annex), dated 1752, at rear of No. 59 O’Connell St (Dublin Bus HQ). Also, the reading room at rear of No. 59, with oval light, is of 18th century origin, with the application acknowledging that this is a unique example of 18th and 19th century architecture.

61 O’Connell St. Upper, Dublin 1, is of 18th Century origin, and as such is a unique survivor of the destruction of both the 1916 and 1922 street fighting in Dublin, also slated for demolition.

All these outstanding pieces of architectures and of Dublin’s unique architectural history are slated for demolition, with facades to be retained as part of this retail and office development. However, this is the same as complete destruction of this unique pieces of Dublin architecture, stretching back as they do from the 18th century, to the rebuilding after the war of independence, to the art deco (Savoy) cinema of the 1930s. The 1916-22 street buildings are no mean pieces of architecture, and constitute not merely fine facades of cut stone and red and brown brick, but Portland stone on O’Connell St.

1922 O’Connell St. Architecture in context

Early 20th century architects made efforts to reflect the 18th century layout as part of the post War of Independence/Civil War reconstruction,, their loss is basically a loss of 18th architectural form in O’Connell St, itself. The 1922 architects acted to retain the presence of the 18th century street (this is acknowledged in the Dublin Central application, this is completely different from a pastiche reflection in terms of a sandblasted façade, retained as a piece of nostalgia, as will be the case if the ‘Dublin Central’ scheme proceeds.

O’Connell St. in Planning and Heritage context

Despite the rhetoric about converting Moore St. into a refined Temple Bar, the real focus of the Dublin Central proposal is O'Connell St itself, and in fact the ‘Project Jewel’ holdings in O’Connell St. were cited as a valuable feature of the loan in a 2015 RTE article, not Moore St.

This process is a licence for the demolition of the city, if listed buildings on the main street of the capital can be struck of the protected list (the protected status applies to the structure, not simply the extent façade), to facilitate a commercial development.

Final Points on this Historic Street

There are many points to make about this latest proposal, the relevant points are as follows:

• The focus should be on the proposed O'Connell/Parnell St. destruction, in this respect, Moore Street is a side issue.

• The application was accompanied by imagery promoting an aspirational urban and cultural quarter (think of Temple Bar and the rhetoric accompanying the destruction of parts of Dublin's increasingly vulnerable fabric), this from a development corporation renting the Savoy site out as a low-grade casino.

• The open support from the acting Taoiseach which attempts to politicise the application.

Alternative Proposals for O’Connell St. to revive it as Ireland's Premier street

There are alternatives to further destruction of Ireland's national street;

· Purchase and rebuild the Carlton cinema site as a National Library, as most of the books and records could be centralised in a single location on the national street.

· Build apartment blocks on the vacant Carlton sites, we are in a housing crisis, after all, but of course this would not give an enormous return to a property corporation.

· Use O'Connell St., as a national street with its protected buildings used for state offices, perhaps even sub-sections of Government Departments.

· With regard to the nearby General Post Office (G.P.O.) it could be turned over to the National Museum as a central museum facility housing War of Independence / Civil War artefacts, this would attract beneficial tourism to O’Connell St.


O’Connell St. Proper: The so-called ‘Dublin Central’ proposal lies within the

O'Connell Street Architectural Conservation Area and adjoins a National Monument / Protected Structures.

<> Project Jewel includes loans relating to the Dundrum Town Centre in Dublin, as well as loans relating to 50% of both the Ilac shopping centre in Dublin city centre and Pavilions shopping centre in Swords, Co Dublin. All of the loans are connected with property developer Joe O'Reilly and his company Chartered Land. In a statement, Hammerson said that under the long-term joint venture structure of the deal, it would own 50% of Dundrum Town Centre alongside Allianz. Hammerson would also own all of the rest of the assets, which include land in O'Connell Street, and 50% of the Ilac and Pavilions shopping centres. The Project Jewel loan portfolio had a par value of about €2.6bn, NAMA said in its statement today.

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