Wednesday 23 October 2019

Battle for the Dublin skyline: Are you ready for Johnny Ronan's 'world class' hanging gardens?

An artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Project Waterfront’ seen from the South Quays
An artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Project Waterfront’ seen from the South Quays
A detail of the three smaller blocks
Johnny Ronan
Liam Collins

Liam Collins

The battle for the Dublin skyline is set to dramatically intensify after developer Johnny Ronan submitted outline plans to Dublin City Council for a 44-storey "hanging gardens"-themed development in the docklands.

Ronan's ''grand design'' for the North Wall Quay dwarfs the surrounding cityscape and at its highest point, is almost twice as high as his 22-storey Tara Street development, which was controversially given the green light by An Bord Pleanala last month.

The developer proposes to build the twin towers on the last major vacant site north of the Liffey, near the East Link Bridge, giving employment to more than 10,000 building workers. It was previously a series of run-down warehouses occupied by Hales Transport and Tilestyle.

The proposed main tower on the quayside is 155m at its highest point, compared with Liberty Hall, which is 51m. The development also contains another tower 40 storeys high, with a series of interlocking blocks with roof terraces and vertical gardens.

Johnny Ronan
Johnny Ronan

"It will provide Dublin with a very cosmopolitan development, which people will want to come and see because it is totally unique in terms of anything built in Ireland or the UK," say his architects.

The Project Waterfront proposal on the four-acre site will be a 50/50 residential and commercial development, designed by Dublin architects Henry J Lyons. According to the architects, it could provide 1,000 homes, offices, shops, hotels, rooftop parks, a dramatic ''sky garden'' and greenery cascading down the front and internal spaces in the massive development.

"It will add interest to the Dublin skyline. It is designed to be seen - but not from the Georgian parts of Dublin," say the development's architects. "It is really world class and Johnny Ronan is prepared to fight for it."

Ronan, one of the most high-profile developers of the Celtic Tiger era, has bounced back from the recession with the proposed Tara tower development off Tara Street and is developing another dockland site for multi-national firm, Salesforce.

His Project Waterfront represents the most audacious development since the Celtic Tiger era with opulent interiors, but includes 10pc social and affordable housing.

The proposal was lodged with Dublin City Council last week as part of a submission to its ''building heights review'' which is currently under way. But Ronan has already expressed concern that this review could take two years to complete and in the meantime, the last major site on the North Quays may have to conform to what he believes are ultra-conservative height restrictions.

An artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Project Waterfront’ seen from the South Quays
An artist’s impression of the proposed ‘Project Waterfront’ seen from the South Quays

"The average height [in the docklands] is too low and a waste of valuable land," say his planning consultants Tom Phillips Associates, as part of the submission. "This is putting Dublin's docklands at a major disadvantage for foreign direct investment and large footprint indigenous commercial development."

The planning consultants also claim that current developments undertaken in the Special Designated Zones (SDZs) along the Liffey quays are "failing to deliver" on the City Council's objective of "significant residential and commercial floor space" in the area, which is close to current and proposed public transport infrastructure. The massive development promises a "better work/lifestyle balance" for residents and office workers, say the architects. It would also be eco-friendly with solar power, green spaces, recycling facilities and even a "soil free" high-tech underground farm.

A recent Red C Poll commissi-oned by Ronan's development company found that eight out of 10 respondents living in Dublin believe building higher makes sense, providing they are well-designed and constructed outside the city's Georgian core. Some 19pc of respondents found the skyline "attractive" and felt it needed to be protected while 84pc believed that height restrictions needed to be lifted in the docklands.

Ronan's latest plans would radically alter the city skyline at the East Link Bridge, but in 2006 permission was given for the U2 Tower, designed by international architect Norman Foster, which was of similar height. The U2 Tower was never built because the property market collapsed.

Ronan's advisers argue that changed economic conditions in Ireland and the attraction of Dublin for firms relocating here because of Brexit make it imperative for the city to expand up rather than out.

Sunday Independent

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