City site offered
 for €150,000 in housing contest

Fishamble Street. Photo: El Keegan

By Cormac McQuinn

PRIME city centre land is being offered for only €150,000 as part of a competition to develop a derelict site into modern homes.

Dublin City Council is offering the site in Fishamble Street to a group of households who will create a five-storey residential building that they will commit to live in for at least 10 years.

The Dublin House initiative will involve the sale of the site opposite the council's civic offices.

The council wants to show how all the convenience and space of modern three-bedroom homes can be delivered on a tight space in the city centre.

The applicants must design, build and finance the residences.

City architect Ali Grehan said it is the first time such a competition has been held in Ireland.

"This idea of having small co-ops and small-scale development is done in places like Holland, Denmark and Berlin," she said.

"From the very outset, it wasn't about an economic idea. It was very much a social idea, thinking about why do people resist living in the city centre?

"We really need to do projects that challenge that. One of the reasons people don't live in the city centre is the lack of choice of accommodation, which begs the question, are we building apartments suitable for city living?

"One of the issues people have with apartment living is they don't feel they have control, and when you're sharing with two or three families you become a community.

"Maybe developing larger sites in plots might give a more interesting architecture."

One design solution from the city council says the ground floor could comprise a retail unit or cafe of 61 square metres.

The second and third floors would be a two or three-bed duplex home for a family of four totalling 132 square metres.

The third floor could be a two-bed unit for a couple of 83 square metres and the fourth and fifth floors include a three-bed unit for three friends sharing, totalling 132 square metres.

The co-operative, working with an architect, will ultimately decide on the number of units, where the balconies will be located, the size of bedrooms, the location and size of windows and whether a shared roof terrace could be developed.

"It's about allowing people to have a greater say in how they want to live in cities," senior executive architect Jeremy Wales said.

"Previously, people might be lucky enough to get a site and hire an architect. Now we're creating a mechanism so households can get together and hire an architect to design an apartment building.

"It's to encourage people to live in the city."

The council believes it would cost between €1.1m and €1.2m to develop the site, including the purchase cost and professional fees.

Applicants must complete a form, name the households involved and show they have the funds to complete the development.

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