Dublin City Council has increased the number of homes it hopes to fit on land at St Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, in a development that will be entirely cost-rental and social housing.
Plans published this month as part of a third round of consultation – which runs until 31 March – with Dubliners for the city’s flagship public-housing project show 548 apartments, up from the 484 suggested towards the end of last year.
Designs also show a library and community hub looking onto Emmet Road, as well as a creche, supermarket, cafe, shops and three public squares.
There has been drift in council timelines for the project. In December 2020, a council spokesperson said it hoped to put in a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in April 2021.
During an online information session on 24 March, Merritt Bucholz, the design team lead from Bucholz McEvoy Architects, said the council expects to put in a planning application this autumn.
At the webinar on 24 March, Bucholz talked through designs for the development that would provide new services to Inchicore.
“Not really just to the people who are going to be living in the new apartments, but to the people who are already in Inchicore,” he said.
The library and community hub – with space for exhibitions, an atrium, and meeting rooms – would sit on the north-east corner of the development, with entrances on to a new public square called “Emmet Place”, fronting onto Emmet Road, the presentation shows.
Said Bucholz: “During the public consultation process, we’ve heard a lot about the desire for a cultural venue, for places for music, for places for arts and also places for sports and activity.”
They’ve tried to do that, he says. “Not just inside the building, but also outside the building to make all of the spaces around it really active places.”
An affordable supermarket would face Emmet Road, he said. “Inchicore needs a supermarket, everybody knows that.”
There would also be space for a creche, other shops, and two cafés.
A question came in about a community pitch.
Sandra McAleer, the council’s project manager, said the council had looked into fitting a pitch into the development, to replace the existing pitch – which will be built over – at the existing Inchicore Community Sports Centre.
There isn’t space for a pitch on the site, McAleer said, but the council is committed to providing a pitch nearby.
The council has been looking into Turvey Park, she said. “It is our endeavour to provide a pitch and hopefully deliver that in advance of the new development.”
According to current designs for the planned new development at St Michael’s Estate, 19 percent of the land would be public open space, including three new public squares.
“Emmet Place”, in the northeast corner, would look onto Emmet Road next to the library and community centre, while “Richmond Place”, to the east, would sit on Patriot’s Path next to Richmond Barracks.
In the south-west corner, “Goldenbridge Place” would be at the St Vincent’s Street West entrance to Goldenbridge Cemetery and Core Youth Service.
Next to the existing Inchicore Community Sport Centre, which will be retained, behind the library and community hub, near-ish to the north-east corner of the development, there would be public play spaces for young people and facilities, said Bucholz, “that also cater for young people and older people meeting and mixing”.
The streets around the development need a redesign, he said. In the plans, St Vincent’s Street West and Patriot’s Path would link with the public squares, and streets crossing east to west through the development would be open to the public.
“Supporting this kind of connectivity and permeability through the site is crucial to making anti-social behaviour really difficult,” he said.
“This means that you have a, you know, a development which is now part of the city, it’s not one way in or one way out,” he says.
Good public lighting can make the streets a place where people can meet each other, he said. “Where you recognise people who are walking along the street both at day and at night.”
Trees and planting around the area would contribute to sustainable urban drainage to help prevent flooding, he said.
Getting There and Away
At the meeting, Ian Crehan, a consultant engineer from O’Connor Sutton Cronin, said that his team had worked on finding a balance between car parking and encouraging other forms of transport.
The site already has good connections to bus routes, the Luas, cycling routes, and is close to Heuston Station, said Crehan, so they don’t want too much car parking. (Heuston Station is about 2km away.)
Beneath the supermarket would be 59 bike parking spaces, and 56 car parking spaces (including three accessible spaces), and electric-vehicle charging points, all accessible to the public.
For residents, there would be, within the blocks, 939 enclosed bike parking spaces, 293 visitor bike spaces, 50 private car parking spaces (including three accessible spaces), 30 car share spaces, and electric-vehicle charging points.
Said Crehan: “We try to actually encourage the moving away from the car as the primary source of transport.”
They’re drawing up mobility plans and traffic assessments for the planning application, he said.
How many homes with how many bedrooms there will be, and which of them would be rented as cost-rental and which as social, has come up in debates around the site.
Thirty percent of the homes are to be social homes, and 70 percent to be cost-rental, the new (to Ireland) rental model, which sees rent set at a level that covers the development of the homes and a small profit.
In December last year, Labour Councillor Darragh Moriarty said he worried that too many smallish cost-rental homes would indicate it was seen as stop-gap housing rather than long-term sustainable rental living.
Designs now show that 15 percent of the apartments would be studios, 33 percent would be one-beds, 45 percent would be two-beds, and 7 percent would be three-beds.
At the meeting, Rory Kunz, a planning consultant from John Spain Associates, said council analysis has shown that the most demand is for one- and two-bedroom apartments.
There aren’t only traditional nuclear families looking for housing in the city, he said. “Society has changed and the mix in the development reflects this.”
Cost-rental homes would be affordable long-term, he said. “Which will encourage people to put down roots in the long-term basis compared to market-rent apartment schemes, which are seen as more transient in nature.”
Under legislation brought in last year, people living in cost-rental homes have more security than those in the mainstream rental market, and rents have to come in at least 25 percent below market rents.
At the meeting, McAleer, the council’s project manager, said the cost-rental homes would be a mix of studio apartments, as well as two- and three-beds. None of the studios would be social homes, she said.
Most of the apartments will have entrance halls, lots of storage, and private balconies, said Bucholz, the architect.
The apartments would have good light, said Bucholz. “Having access to daylight, being able to tell what time of year it is by the way the sun is coming into your living room or into your bedroom.”
Half of the apartments would have windows facing two directions, most of these being south and east or north and west. The other half would mostly have one window facing either east or west, he said.
Building heights would vary across the development, he said, with the highest being seven storeys and the lowest being two. “Having different heights of buildings is important to building a strong public realm.”
Residents will have private courtyard space too, he said. There would be a courtyard above the supermarket, and two courtyards in the centre of blocks of apartments.
“We think of them as gardens for the people that live in the community,” said Bucholz, where there would be play spaces and benches. “They’re spaces that can support quite a lot of biodiversity.”
Designs show an “energy centre” next to the creche. Rather than boilers inside each apartment, the energy centre would be a source of renewable, shared energy, said Bucholz.
“There is, I think, a common goal to eliminate fossil fuels. And so we’re working very hard and making sure that that’s part of what we do here,” he said.
“It means that we can really reduce the cost of energy generation, which makes the units affordable,” said Bucholz.
Residents would always have access to nature, he said. “I think that the climate responsiveness definitely has to do with how we manage to incorporate nature into every part of the design.”