Photo by Cónal Thomas

People pass the buildings all the time on the way to the Great South Wall, says Fine Gael Councillor Kieran Binchy. “And they’re just sitting there derelict.”

Just off Pigeon House Road and overlooked by the Poolbeg chimneys, sits the former Pigeon House Hotel and former ESB power station, a brown brick structure extending to the shore.

Dublin City Council has owned the site for more than a decade, and it’s now looking to get the buildings back into use. “It would be great to see them being used properly,” says Binchy.

The council plans to put a call out for developers who might be interested in leasing the site for “a wide range of uses including creative, technological, green, artistic and community uses”, says a recent report.

A Refurb

Both the power station and the old hotel, which sit on a seven-acre site on the Poolbeg Peninsula, are “in need of extensive refurbishment”, says a council report, released last week.

The power station is broken up into three parts. The boiler house and engine room are “vast open spaces with no internal floors”, the report says. “The control room is of concrete block construction with internal floors.”

The former Pigeon House Hotel dates back to the 1790s, and has three storeys over a basement. It’s used right now as office space for Irish Water and council staff.

Dublin City Council is hoping for proposals for the old buildings from those involved in creative, technological and green industries, the report says.

Perhaps, the power station and hotel could be turned into a visitor attraction, it says. The council will also be looking for ideas around artistic or community uses.

Big Potential

For some this has been a long time coming. The power station has been empty for at least 20 years, says Labour Councillor Dermot Lacey. “There have been various proposals over the years, but it needs a big project.”

It’s right on the beach with a harbour. “I mean, the potential is just absolutely enormous,” says Lacey.

Fine Gael’s Binchy says he would like to see a plan that takes in the nearby beach, too. “It’s right on the mouth of the Liffey. It should be integrated into the bay as well,” he says.

At Monday’s meeting of the council’s South East Area Committee, councillors backed a motion from Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne to keep the site for community, creative and artistic uses. Like studios for artists, perhaps.

But the site does have its drawbacks, said Senior Executive Officer Helen McNamara, at the meeting.

Both buildings are protected structures, which limits what can be done to them, she says. And they would require a lot of investment.

“The council itself wouldn’t have the resources or monies required to get the structures into beneficial use,” she said.

The council is seeking expressions of interest “to see what kind of appetite is out there”, McNamara said. “I don’t think anybody would be interested in buying it outright.”

Adding to the City

Byrne of the Green Party says that using the site for artists would be best. “Rather than it being handed over to the highest bidder and become something that doesn’t really add anything to the city.”

The next step is for applicants to send in ideas, which the council will shortlist and ask for more details about. Councillors and the council would then choose a bidder and transfer the lease.

It makes sense to use the site for community or artistic uses, given the plans for thousands of homes on the Poolbeg SDZ site, just west of the site, says Binchy of Fine Gael.

There are no homes near the site at present, he says. He’d like to see that change. “It’s so far out. It’s a good distance away but it’s such a huge site” he says. “So it has such potential.”

Says Labour’s Lacey: “I’d be very anxious that significant portions of it remain in either public ownership or public access.”

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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