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September 12, 2010

Council backs faux-Georgian ESB building

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The ESB has been working for more than 18 months on a design competition for the redevelopment of its headquarters at Fitzwilliam Square in Dublin. However the city council may be making the decision for the company.

A proposed amendment to the city’s new development plan says the council will “promote the reinstatement of the Georgian façade of the 16 Georgian houses on Fitzwilliam Street Lower which were demolished in 1965″.

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The ESB is planning to redevelop its 2.5-acre site there and has shortlisted Grafton Architects, O’Mahony Pike, DEGW and BDSP; Henry J Lyons and Gilroy McMahon; and Scott Tallon Walker. One of the main parts of the competition was “the participants’ proposals for a solution to the aspect of the Lower Fitzwilliam Street façade”. Now it may end up being faux-Georgian.

The ESB, for its part, has told the council “that it is essential that the plan include a height range of up to eight storeys for commercial use if the final adopted policies in support of major employment and economic growth in the city centre are to be realised”.

Blanchardstown and Tallaght malls top retailers’ league

Where do retailers get most bang for their buck? New research from Retail Excellence Ireland (REI) shows it’s Green Property’s Blanchardstown Centre in Dublin, in part because they “have been forthright in their understanding” of the difficulties facing the retail industry and most of the scheme has been granted temporary rent reductions. Following that were The Square in Tallaght and Manor West Shopping Centre in Tralee.

Surprisingly, the research found that occupancy rates have risen marginally on last year. However, this is skewed by a “significant new tenancy which somewhat disguises the closure rates being suffered by some schemes”.

REI questions some of the new tenancies over “their questionable contribution to the overall retail mix”. That’s probably unfair, however, given that the homogeneity of most shopping centres is one of the main things putting people off visiting them. Tenant mix was never a priority for landlords during the boom.

REI also found that the average rent in Dublin centres fell by just 2.65% in the past year, compared to a 4.45% average in larger schemes across the country. However, it said the “reduction in rent comes nowhere close to matching the significant reduction in trading volumes suffered over the period”.

The Sunday Tribune