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Councillors Vote To Retain Architects For Major Emmet Road Housing Scheme

Councillors Vote To Retain Architects For Major Emmet Road Housing Scheme

Dublin City Councillors have voted overwhelmingly in favour of retaining Bucholz McEvoy Architects as the project lead architects, for the proposed major Emmet Road, Inchicore, housing scheme on the lands of the former St. Michael’s Estate.
At a recent Dublin City Council (DCC) meeting, a roll-call vote of Councillors resulted in thirty-one in favour, eleven against and four abstentions, according to meetings administrator, Ruth Dowling.
“Dublin City Council, because it’s Dublin City Council’s decision, has dropped this main design team and is now going to tender for about twelve different tenders. So, the one point of contact is lost”, said Independent Councillor, Sophie Nicoullaud, at DCC’s monthly meeting.

Nicoullaud proposed a motion, suggesting that the council should reverse this decision and retain the original architects “as the lead integrated design team”.
However, DCC Assistant Chief Executive, Coilin O’ Reilly, who is the council’s outgoing head of housing and community services, said that he wasn’t going to change his decision and he also declined to explain it in detail. “Unfortunately, it is not always possible to discuss full details with councillors and the public on contractual matters”, he said.
In addition to the matter of retaining Bucholz McEvoy, Nicoullaud’s motion also raised the thorny issue of DCC’s plans to sell-off part of the site, to fund community facilities. These include a public library and a community hub and are part of the proposed development.

“This government of the coalition has Euros 8 billion surplus in 2022, there’s going to be Euros 10 billion in 2023 and you’re begging us to sell the site? I would ask all councillors in the coalition to go to their ministers and to avoid to sell public land”, she said.
The proposed redevelopment of the site of the former St. Michael’s Estate is set to be a flagship public housing project for DCC, with a combination of social and cost-rental homes.
In late September, last year, O’ Reilly suggested that some of the homes built on the council-owned site could operate as private rentals, as a means of raising finance to assist in the funding of the community facilities.
However, when faced with some stiff opposition to this plan, O’ Reilly appeared to complete a u-turn at the council’s monthly meeting in October.

“This was an own goal on our behalf. We have heard what people have to say and we are going to do everything on our power to sort that”, he said.
However, that left DCC in a quandary as to how to fund these community facilities. The Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is always keen to fund new housing, per se , but is not so willing to provide finance for ancillary facilities like public libraries, community centres and playing pitches.
Last October, DCC applied to An Bord Pleanala for planning permission for the project, designed by Bucholz McEvoy Architects, following an extensive consultation process with the local community.
The, in April of this year, the Inchicore Regeneration Consultative Forum wrote to the council housing manager, to express its concerns about the council’s proposal to tender for a new design team. It appeared, at the time, that DCC was considering dispensing with the services of Bucholz McEvoy Architects.  The council didn’t explain, at the time, why it was terminating it’s contract with the original design team. DCC still needed a team of architects to complete detailed designs, once An Bord Pleanala granted planning permission, which happened in July.

“At this point, there’s total lack of trust, trust is gone between the community and Dublin City Council on this project”, Nicoullaud said at this month’s DCC meeting.
At the meeting, other local councillors rowed in behind Nicoullaud’s motion and called on the council to reverse it’s decision to terminate Bucholz McEvoy Architects’ contract.
“It does feel like the rug was pulled from under us at a very late stage. I don’t know what the commercial sensitivities were, but I do know one thing, that there was a huge amount of trust there that took years to build up”, said Independent Councillor, Vincent Jackson.

“I would just hope to God that over the coming years that we don’t unwind that, because the effects could be catastrophic for this Emmet Road site, which is a crucial part of the housing response that we need for the city”, he added.
Sinn Fein Councillor, Maire Devine, also spoke in favour of Nicoullaud’s motion, explaining that she’d been trying to understand the decision to axe the original architects, but couldn’t.
“I don’t think I got all the answers, Coilin. I think still we’re very, very struck and disappointed in the unilateral decision, imposed with no by-your-leave to the forum or to councillors, of changing the format, which works really, really well”, she said to O’ Reilly at the meeting.

Green Party Councillor, Michael Pidgeon, said that he also failed to fully understand the decision or why it was taken. However, he urged his fellow councillors to accentuate the positives, namely that the project is still moving forward, despite the scenario surrounding the lead architects.
“I wouldn’t say that trust is gone or destroyed. It has taken a hammering. But I don’t want to talk it (the project) down too much”, he said.

O’ Reilly said, at the meeting, that he’d “been asked numerous times” about the decision to cancel Bucholz McEvoy Architects’ contract. “I’m not going to change my position at this time”, he said.
He explained that the project had moved onto a new stage now, with the next task being the completion of detailed blueprints on the overall design, which was drawn-up, over the years, by Bucholz McEvoy Architects, in consultation with the local community.

“The new design teams have been appointed and will begin work on design-to-tender documentation, over the coming weeks”, he said.
“Procuring multiple contractors on individual contracts provides the opportunity to select the most appropriately qualified specialist individuals to deliver on bespoke parts of the individual project”, he added.
Regarding the plan to sell-off land to help fund the community facilities, O’ Reilly said: “There has always been a commercial element within the project that has been used to fund the community facilities”.

“This has been discussed at length with councillors in the past and commitment has been given that all housing within the development will be public. The mechanism to deliver the commercial element with public housing above is yet to be finalised, but it will indeed require some sort of disposal that we will be grateful for the council’s support on”, he added.
The current plans for the project, in addition to the apartment blocks, the public library, the community hub and a proposed creche, include allocated spaces for a supermarket, five other retail outlets and two cafes.
“Failure to agree disposal will leave an empty commercial space and no funding to develop community facilities”, O’ Reilly concluded.

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