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  • Northside West

Going, going, nearly gone

Thursday, 6th September, 2018 8:00am

Story by Jack Gleeson
Going, going, nearly gone

The old Garda Station at the Shopping Centre.

Going, going, nearly gone

The old Garda Station at the Shopping Centre.

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DUBLIN City Council is being urged not to delay redeveloping the site at Ballymun Shopping Centre, which is due to demolished shortly.

The council has finally secured vacant possession of the site and work on removing the iconic centre is expected to start within weeks.

The shopping centre buildings will be demolished in their entirety, together with the former health centre and a number of service buildings.

The existing car park to the South East of the site will remain but about half the current 400 spaces available will be inaccessible.

The council published its plans during the summer and no objections to levelling the old complex were lodged before the opportunity for public submissions on the plans expired last month.

Ballymun Independent Councillor, Noeleen Reilly, says demolition of the shopping centre must lead the way for “great development”.

“The buildings must be demolished but we also need to have them replaced with a mixed use development of retail and residential,” she added.

“The last thing we need is a gapping hole in the middle of our town centre for the next decade.

“There should be no delay in Dublin City Council advertising this land to interested parties.

“It is a prime site in the heart of Ballymun, close to the M50, the airport and Dublin City University and it would be a great investment.”

Demolition of the centre will mark the end of an era for Ballymun. The original Town Centre was due to be built alongside the housing when plans for the suburb were first put forward in the 1960s.

However, just as there have been delays in demolishing the centre, there were also delays in building it with residents in the new high-rise estate relying on temporary shopping facilities for a number of years before it was finally built.

It was the first major shopping centre on the Northside, rivalling the famous Stillorgan Shopping Centre south of the Liffey and attracting shoppers from all over the city.

However, as Ballymun declined, so did the centre and during the ‘80s open drug dealing just metres from the Garda station was a prominent feature.

The regeneration plan brought hope for a fresh start and a new town centre was included in the ‘Masterplan for a new Ballymun’ in 1998.

In 2003 Treasury Holdings applied for permission to build a 170,000 sq mt mixed-use town centre scheme that would have revamped the existing shopping centre and built new units on an additional eight acres.

However, the project ran into difficulties and it took six years before permission was finally approved but the recession was just starting to bite and it was no longer considered to economically viable.

With the developers bust, Dublin City Council bought the NAMA interest in the Shopping Centre in order to continue the regeneration.

Despite investing over €3.5 million the crumbling centre couldn’t be saved and the final nail in its coffin was hammered home when anchor tenants Tesco left in 2014.

The council decided that refurbishing the shopping centre would not be economically feasible due to the cost and the fact that the aging complex would find it difficult to compete with modern facilities at Omni Park and Charlestown.

Ballymun has been without major shopping facilities for over four years now and Cllr Reilly says it’s a reminder of the regeneration’s failures.

“The Ballymun Shopping Centre is the single biggest reminder to anyone that lives in Ballymun what went wrong with the regeneration,” she said.

“There were so many promises about what would and wouldn’t happen with the centre over the last two decades, none of which were ever completed and the centre fell into disrepair and businesses starting pulling out.

“Now we have an opportunity to change that.”

The shopping centre as it was in 1971.

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here