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Wednesday 16 October 2019

WATCH: A fairy fort and floating playground... property developer Harry Crosbie reveals his plan for Dublin's Grand Canal Dock

Niamh Horan

Niamh Horan

Property developer Harry Crosbie has launched his second audacious plan for the city in less than a month - a giant futuristic structure on the edge of Dublin's Grand Canal Dock.

This weekend Mr Crosbie told the Sunday Independent that "this one is for the people", saying "it is intended as a gift for the city" and "will be paid for by commercial development".

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The structure, called 'The Watchtower', will include a fairy fort, ice skating rink, outdoor theatre and outdoor heated swimming pool - in place of the three dry docks at the site - as well as a floating playground for children. It will also house a theatre, community centre, creche, art gallery, public park, 500 apartments and 400,000 square feet of office space.

Speaking about the project, Mr Crosbie said: "I have been fascinated by this site for 20 years. I want this to be Dublin's living room.

"It will be based on the Agora principle in ancient Greek cities, which would provide a free public space for people to meet together for markets or concerts or just to hang out."

Describing the nearby buildings, he said: "Dublin needs world-class buildings where the city meets the sea. There is too much repetition along the river. Most of the buildings along either side, north and south, are all the same - boring and repetitious."

The tower would be 120 metres (40 storeys) at its highest point and plans describe how the exterior will look as if "the sculptural mass has eroded and formed from the sea". Inside, a giant ship will be transformed into a bar.

"We are calling it 'The Watchtower' because there was once a watchtower on the other side of the river to watch for enemy shipping in the middle ages," Mr Crosbie added.

He previously received planning permission for a tower, also called 'The Watchtower', at the Point depot over a decade ago. The 130m high tower, designed by Scott Tallon Walker Architects, would have stood opposite the so-called 'U2 tower', which - at 155m - was also granted permission but never built because of the property crash.

On the current plans, Mr Crosbie said: "It will be sheltered from bad weather and get the late evening sun as it faces west over the water, which is unique in the city. There is a hidden national treasure of beautiful 18th Century heritage architecture, which will be open to public use. The main lock gates to the sea will be electrified and brought back to full working order to allow small ships back into the basin."

Harry Crosbie. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Harry Crosbie. Photo: Gerry Mooney

On the financing of the €300m project, Mr Crosbie said: "The scheme is fully banked and ready to go if the 'Corpo' give permission and if the Government want it.

"All the work, up to now, is pro bono and all the work that I'll do on the public realm part will be pro bono, but we will need to make money out of the commercial side. We will pay full site value, we will pay for all the heritage work and then whatever is left, we split [with the State]."

Asked why he was announcing his second plan in two months, he said: "Last year I was off because I was only allowed to earn my salary so I had time off. I don't like not working, so I said I am going to work for the city.

"This is the best project I have come up with. This is the one I want to push. This was done because I have time and because I love Dublin. I think it's a beautiful city and I think this would be a huge addition."

Mr Crosbie said that, to date, two ministers have viewed the plans - justice minister Charlie Flanagan and Minister of State Michael D'Arcy - and both have given their support.

"I can't do any more, I have done the work, we have drawn it, I have paid for all of this work and it's now up to them to decide if they want it or not," he added. "If they don't want it, I will lick my wounds and head off and do something else."

Sunday Independent

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