Once the site of a prison and a mental hospital, the transformation of Grangegorman, into a university campus together with parks, housing, offices and healthcare facilities is well underway.
“Really what we are trying to do at Grangegorman is to transform the meaning of the place, the nature of the place,” says Ger Casey, CEO of the Grangegorman Development Agency, at a meeting of councillors on the Central Area Committee on 18 April.
The agency started to plan the work in 2005, says an update to councillors. Before that the 400,000 sqm site was underused as St Brendan’s Hospital, says Casey.
In 2007, the masterplan was finalised. After community consultation, the agency got planning permission in 2012 to build a campus for TU Dublin, facilities for the HSE, laboratories, a primary school, housing, pitches, parks, streets, playgrounds and more.
Casey estimates that around a third of the building work is now done, he says.
He hopes to progress plans for 2,000 beds of student housing soon, he says. “Making sure that we can deliver affordable student accommodation.”
Councillors on the committee welcomed the work.
Said Labour Councillor Declan Meenagh: “This project really took a site that had a quite dark history and reimagined it.”
Affordable Student Housing?
The redevelopment includes 2,000 student beds and the challenge is to make those affordable, says Casey.
“There is a borrowing framework being established by the Department of Further and Higher Education but that is going to take time,” he says, and he’d like to see the student housing developed sooner.
That probably means either doing a deal with a developer, which would make affordability challenging, says Casey, or else refurbishing existing buildings.
“The refurbishment of old buildings … offers a lot of potential for affordable accommodation along the lines of student accommodation,” he says.
They will explore that option with TU Dublin over the next few months, says Casey.
There are issues that need to be ironed out, with the idea including how to meet the standards and manage the maintenance, he says. “It’s very, very early days.”
Transforming the Landscape
As well as restoring protected structures and building new ones, the development includes adding green spaces and access routes to link up the neighbourhood, says Casey.
“The nature space in the inner-city is really important,” says Green Party Councillor Janet Horner.
“It is absolutely fantastic,” says Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan. “It’s a huge amenity for the people in the area.”
Boylan asked about progress towards providing a disabled swing on the grounds.
“We were doing a lot of research on what makes inclusive play equipment,” says Lori Keeve, communications coordinator with the Grangegorman Development Agency.
They are planning to include inclusive play equipment in a new playground, she said. “That is intended to be in place this time next year, all going well.”
Councillors asked again about plans for improving Broadstone Plaza and making better use of it.
Casey agreed there is a need to animate the plaza. “It’s a blank slate effectively. It’s something that can be used in a lot of different ways over time.”
At the moment, Grangegorman is mostly used by students during the day, says Casey. But when it is finished there will be a few thousand people living there and people working in buildings overlooking that plaza.
Fine Gael Councillor Ray McAdam, who chairs the Central Area Committee, said that a review of the casual trading by-laws, should be brought to the council in July.
After that, he hopes the council will designate the Broadstone Plaza as a casual trading area, paving the way for markets.
Building in Sustainability
Councillors asked if the Grangegorman Development Agency can replace the recycling bring centre, which is to be closed down.
Casey said they are working with the council to provide some recycling facilities. “We don’t have the capability to replace like for like for the bring centre, basically we just don’t have the space.”
In the long term, there will be two recycling centres included in the new development, he says, one each on the east and west of the site.
In the meantime, they are trying to accommodate walk-in recycling facilities, he says. “Even that is proving difficult.”
“We are not giving up just yet and we are well aware of the impact of taking it away from the community,” said Casey.