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  • Northside West

Setback for city project

Tuesday, 30th July, 2019 8:00am
Setback for city project

An impression of the Cultural Quarter at Parnell Square.

Setback for city project

An impression of the Cultural Quarter at Parnell Square.

THE development of a new Cultural Quarter at Parnell Square has run into financial problems, Dublin City Council revealed last week.

The Northside quarter is due to be anchored by a new cutting-edge City Library surrounded by cultural facilities. It was planned that the area would become a landmark destination in the city and transform the north city centre.

Planning permission for the new library was granted by An Bord Pleanála just three months ago but the council has now been advised that that private fundraising needed to complete the project could take over three years to obtain, and that there is no guarantee it will be successful.

The Council has vowed that development of the library will go ahead, but the other elements of the project including a public plaza space and restoration of Georgian houses have been shelved.

The project is overseen by the Parnell Square Foundation, a charitable trust set up to raise funds and finance the project with the support of Dublin City Council and property company, Kennedy Wilson.

The funding model needed 55 percent of the project to be funded by private philanthropy through the Foundation but consultants have identified a number of obstacles to a successful private fundraising campaign.

Dublin City Council chief executive, Owen Keegan, has written to city councillors to inform them of developments, which he’s described as “most disappointing and unwelcome”.

Councillor for Cabra-Glasnevin, Cllr Gary Gannon (SD), called the news “disappointing but somewhat unsurprising”.

“This was an integral development to revitalising the Northside of the city,” he said.

“It’s time for this project to be taken in house by Dublin City Council and for Minister Paschal Donohoe to follow through with capital funding.

“Having a functioning library in our capital city shouldn’t be dependent on philanthropic funding. This is a bad outcome for the city and some leadership needs to be shown here.”

Sinn Féin councillor Janice Boylan also described the news as "deeply disappointing".

"The development of the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter has long been signalled as an important development for our city, especially the north centre city where regeneration is so badly needed,” Cllr Boylan said.

“It is deeply disappointing that there is now a funding impasse and a further delay in the delivery of this project.

“This raises serious questions about whether this was the appropriate funding model from the beginning. 

"I welcome the decision of Dublin City Council Chief Executive Owen Keegan to proceed with the Central Library element of the plan. However, a cloud now hangs over the whole plan and we will need more information on the way forward and we will be seeking this from the CEO."

Problems identified with obtaining private fundraising included the scale of funding required compared to sums raised previously for other cultural projects and intense competition for philanthropic funding from high profile national cultural projects based in Dublin.

However, the Parnell Square Foundation council representatives believe the obstacles aren’t necessarily insurmountable and the council says it’s committed to delivering the full Parnell Square Cultural Quarter project.

In his letter to councillors, Owen Keegan says a staged approach to the delivery of the project is now being currently examined.

He told them the council would be proceeding with the construction of the new €80 million library building but planned works to the Georgian houses and a public plaza would be deferred and completed at a later stage.

To date €4.8 million has been provided as seed funding for the project by Kennedy Wilson (compared to an original commitment of €2.5m) and a further €1.7 million by Dublin City Council.

The Cultural Quarter is the second major Northside project with questions surrounding it this year after problems with the redevelopment of Phibsboro Shopping Centre recently emerged.

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