Tuesday 25 October 2016

Emergency motion to save city centre 200-year-old Georgian convent before sale

Published 12/07/2016 | 09:15

Nial Ring
Nial Ring

Dublin city councillors hope to pass an emergency motion today to save an architectural gem in Dublin’s inner city before it’s sold.

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If passed, the motion before the council’s Central Area Committee,  would put an immediate protection order on the Georgian-era Sisters of Charity Convent and School on Gardiner Street Upper.

The 200-year-old structure –with an adjoining Victorian chapel - is currently up for sale and includes a wealth of original features.

But due to an oversight, the building was never listed in the council’s Record of Protected Structures.

Consequently, a buyer could tear it apart without regard to its historic or architectural significance.

Local councillor Nial Ring, who introduced the motion, fears the remarkably intact building at 76 Gardiner Street Upper, could be sold and developed with no regard to its many amenities and character.

It is zoned for housing as well as a hostel, bed and breakfast, hotel and could allow 40pc of the site to be used as office space. It’s also approved for a restaurant, night club, church, school or creche.

Although the protection order wouldn’t change the zoning,  Graham Hickey, Conservation Director with Dublin Civic Trust, said because it’s currently an unprotected building, both the interior and exterior of the building can be ripped out and changed to any new owner’s specifications.

“Our primary concern is to protect it,” he said.

“It’s a beautiful building. The rooms have soaring high ceilings and it’s lovely, bright and airy."

The convent and the adjoining presbytery  were built between 1828 and 1840. It was designed as twin Regency-style mansions and features period railings, door cases, granite stonework as well as marble, cast-iron and stone chimney pieces and original glass fanlights.

The circa-1880 chapel at the rear has also retained many of its original features, such as stained glass windows and mosaic floors.

The motion to include the building on the List of Protected Structures (LPS) “as a matter or urgency” would give the building the same status as other protected buildings.

In the meantime, a subsequent move to fast track the convent being included in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage would support the motion, Mr Ring told The Herald.

Architectural and heritage organisations, such as  the Dublin Civic Trust , the Mountjoy Square Society and the Blend Residents Association all support the emergency motion as do an number of councillors in the local committee, Mr Ring said.

“The committee further notes the concerns of various parties…about the future survival of the historic fabric, internally and externally, of this historic complex which is one of the last of its kind in Dublin to retain such a high level of authenticity and original features,” the motion reads.

“ This is of particular concern in the context of the extent of unauthorised, substandard and inappropriate development presently taking place across the north Georgian core – particularly the proliferation of student hostels, student housing, unauthorised conversions from bed-sits, and short-term/temporary accommodation – many of which are occupying vulnerable, protected Georgian properties with no recourse to planning or building regulations.”

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