Photo by Destiny Esaw

An Eye on Costs

Councillors pressed for more details of how the planned city library on Parnell Square will be funded at a recent arts committee meeting – but there was little progress to report on that front.

Design work is “almost complete” and the project “is on schedule”, said Acting City Librarian Brendan Teeling. His team expects to lodge a planning application by mid-September.

But it was the project’s cost – and transparency around that – that some of the committee members were most interested in at the meeting last Monday.

“I am not satisfied with the manner that this is proceeding,” said independent Councillor Mannix Flynn. He asked for a full report on the library project’s progress and financing.

“We need some information back as matter of urgency,” said independent Councillor Damian O’Farrell.

The estimated cost of the new library as risen from €60 million to €100 million since it was launched in September 2016. Construction inflation could push up the costs even more, a spokesperson for the council said.

Real-estate firm Kennedy Wilson donated €2.5 million and agreed to help raise the rest. So far roughly €5 million has been raised, according to a council spokesperson. Fundraising, however, won’t begin in earnest until a planning application is lodged, they said.

In November 2017, Dublin City Council said its agreement with Kennedy Wilson meant the firm needed to raise a minimum of 51 percent (€51 million) of the project costs. To raise the remainder, the council plans take a loan from the European Investment Bank (EIB).

Kennedy Wilson will continue to fundraise beyond the €51 million in an effort to finance the loan charges, the council said.

A spokesperson for Kennedy Wilson said the firm is hiring an expert to lead its fundraising drive.

What Kind of Affordable?

Eighteen months back, councillors voted through a broad-brushstrokes plan for what would be built on several council-owned sites, including the O’Devaney Gardens site.

Of the homes to be built, 50 percent would be private, while 30 percent would be social and 20 percent would be “affordable”, they agreed. But it was unclear what would be counted as affordable – whether they would be to rent, or to buy.

At the time, the council’s head of housing, Brendan Kenny, said council officials thought affordable rental was “the best option”. But homes to purchase would be on the table, too.

Elsewhere in the city, such as for St Michael’s Estate, community activists have pushed for rental over purchase to make sure that homes are affordable for future generations, too. It is “public land, once it’s gone it’s gone, you can’t get it back”, said Rita Fagan in December last year.

But the O’Devaney Gardens homes will be “for purchase”, according to a council spokesperson. Prices will be related to the cost of construction, they said.

Other issues around affordability, state subsidies, and who is eligible to apply for one of the homes will depend on what is in the Department of Housing’s National Affordable Housing Scheme, which is due to “shortly be published”, the spokesperson said.

Dublin One

Better lighting, partial pedestrianisation, and getting rid of shop shutters – the council is looking at all of those in its effort to improve streets in some parts of the city centre.

The council’s Reimagining Dublin One plan was launched in March 2017, and councillors at the arts committee got an update last Monday on what has been done in the year and a bit since.

Works on Liffey Street are due to kick off in the spring of 2019, said a council spokesperson, and should include partial pedestrianisation and better lighting and paving. DHB Architects have now been appointed to lead the design.

The council also is currently talking with some city-centre business owners about alternatives to security shutters for their facades. It has started a pilot study.

Part of the push also includes possible improvements to the North Lotts area off Abbey Street, tackling blank facades along stretches of Upper Jervis Street, and plans to pedestrianise Mary Street from Jervis Street to Capel Street.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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