The unfinished symphony... let's move to Adamstown
Adamstown, the planned town in west Dublin, remains unfinished but not abandoned
News broke this week that Ulster Bank is to sell 1,850 acres of residential development land in Dublin in a renewed attempt to offload distressed loans to house builders. The first tranche of the 'Project Clear' portfolio to be offered is land at Adamstown, in west Dublin, which remains largely incomplete. The offering includes, by some estimations, 90 per cent of the 550 acres within the Adamstown Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) for more than 7,000 homes.
Residents will be watching with interest to see whether the authorities will enforce completion of long promised civic amenities or whether future builders will be allowed to wash the areas with profitable homes and nothing else.
"Anyone who buys these sites should be aware that they have to build that community centre first. It's in the SDZ. Residents will be hopeful that this move finally gets Adamstown kick-started in earnest," says local Fine Gael Councillor William Lavelle, who has been campaigning on the issue for nearly seven years.
As everyone knows, the planned town that is Adamstown, just south of Lucan in west Dublin (Ireland's first since Shannon in the 1960's), remains unfinished 12 years after its launch. But unfinished is a long way from abandoned, or the lazy "ghost town" tag, despite what some reporters have claimed.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern set in place the commemorative stone on the brave new 220-hectare development west of the Griffeen River and north of the Grand Canal in February 2003.
Under the Adamstown Strategic Development Zone plan, some 10,000 housing units were to be built in an ambitious Celtic Tiger-era project that was to include schools, a community centre, swimming pool, library, cinema and healthcare centre and a transport hub. It currently has schools, a railway station, two shops and a hairdressers.
The housing market crashed, and the project stalled in 2009 with only 1,270, or so, homes and apartments occupied. Attempts by South Dublin County Council to scale back the number of housing units by 20 per cent - and double the proportion of houses to apartments - to get the whole thing moving again, were blocked by An Bord Pleanala last year.
Local resident, blogger and community activist Tom Dowling concedes the swimming pool has been pushed back to a later phase, but none of this equates with desolation or despair.
"I have been living here since May 2009 and with every day Adamstown grows on me more," he says.
Under the banner 'Deliver it Right', residents achieved significant concessions from South Dublin County Council, including acceptance of a phased development, which links housing provision directly with the delivery of infrastructure, a first in planning in Ireland and an important one.
This ensures residents of Adamstown would be buying into a community where social infrastructure would be delivered in tandem with housing.
So, Tom argues, Adamstown was planned properly, offering facilities many estates around Dublin can only dream about, with street upon street of well-maintained housing - a mix of apartments, townhouses and duplexes - spotless pavements and manicured green spaces.
Tom points to the project's numerous awards, including a European and National Planning gong in 2008, and one for Sustainable Communities from the Royal Town and Planning Institute in London in 2009.
There's a park and playground area, pitches for GAA, soccer and cricket.
"Above all, it's a safe place, especially for kids. The houses and apartment units are enclosed, looking out on to green spaces, so parents can see their kids and know they are okay. And these same kids have a five or 10-minute walk, maximum, to the two primary schools or Adamstown Community College."
There's also a good creche, with Giraffe Childcare branches on Adamstown Avenue and nearby Griffeen Avenue.
There's almost 100 per cent occupancy of the homes that are there, and when properties do come up for sale - rarely - they are snapped up. Prices range from around €145,000 for a one-bed apartment up to between €330,000 and €350,000 for a 1,400 sq ft four-bed house with a garage.
Rental income is also good, according to Smith Curley's Mark Smith, with one-bed apartments bringing in €1,050pm; two-beds €1,225; three-beds €1,350; and a four-bed available for around €1,500.
The two main phases are Castlegate, fanning out around the train station and with a population of about 3,500, and The Paddocks, on the Lucan side with around 1,000 residents. The two phases will be linked properly when the community centre is finally completed.
Adamstown rail station was opened in 2007, and there are hourly services to Heuston, 18 minutes away, except for Sunday when there are four services, and Dublin Buses 25b (train station to Merrion Square), 25X (Belfield to Lucan) and 151 (Docklands (East Road) services.
The housing units were laid out around existing mature trees, supplemented with plants and shrubs along the streets. The wide streets have cycle paths, and besides having the grounds of Finnstown House and walking access into the hotel and its leisure facilities, there is good road access to the city and the M4 and M7.
The PE halls of the primary schools facilitate after-hours activities for karate, pilates and other leisure activities.
Most importantly, Tom argues, when the recession finally fades, Adamstown is better placed to attract potential buyers because of its superior social infrastructure.
He has a particular bee in his bonnet about the notion of Adamstown as a ghost town. "This idea of reporters coming out in the morning, after everyone has gone to work and the kids are in school, saying it looks deserted ... of course it is, at that time!
"What there is here is developed well. The district centre, next on the agenda, will be good but council's knock back by An Bord Pleanala meant they had to go back to the drawing board."
The umbrella group of developers involved in the project is known as Chartridge Developers, but the driving force is Joe O'Reilly's Castlethorn.
What does Tom say to the perception that Adamstown, however multi-racial, is middle-class: "Yes, I suppose it is, predominantly, but the 10pc of social housing built into the planning has been stuck to rigidly.
"The people in those houses, I know them, they are well integrated, and there are no social problems.
"If Adamstown had started three or four years earlier, the town centre would be completed and you would have a better place, but for all that, we are happy here."
Schools: Adamstown Community College, which opened in 2009 with 69 students, now has 870 secondary students. Adamstown Castle Educate Together primary school, also on Station Road, currently has 24 teachers, three SNAs, and 280 students from Junior Infants to sixth class. Most of the students live in the Adamstown area, within walking distance. There are 46 nationalities represented in the school. The nearby St John the Evangelist National School now has over 350 pupils and 25 teachers.
Property: Smith Curley is asking €189,500 for the 2-bed 112 Adamstown Avenue duplex; REA McDonald has placed the 3-bed duplex at 33 Castlegate Copse at €230,000; and 76 Castlegate Grove, a 4-bed end of terrace is going for €320,000 (Quillsen)
Adamstown area cv
18 minutes by train from city centre
Award-winning lay-out and design
Safe and crime-free
Shops and services in Adamstown very thin on the ground
No community centre, no church, no point of contact besides schools
Only four trains on Sunday to the city centre
Next week: Let's Move To Clonee