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Player Wills redevelopment receives lukewarm reception from Dublin 8 residents

Liberties locals have raised their concerns around plans to build a large-scale housing development on the former Player Wills factory site. Jake Hurley speaks with Dublin 8 Residents Association member Mark Stedman and Labour senator Rebecca Moynihan to learn more
A picture of an old clock on an older building. Photo by Jake Hurley

A planned 19-storey housing development on the South Circular Road has been met with opposition from local residents who have described the proposed tower block as a “glorified tenement”. 

US property group Hines aims to build 732 apartments at the Dublin 8 site, a significant proportion of which will be co-living units and studio apartments.

The planned housing block will join a second 16-story building which Hines have been granted permission to build on the adjoining Bailey Gibson packaging plant. 

According to Hines’ 2021 development update, two parks will also be built in the surrounding area, bringing the scale of the project up to 27 acres – nine times the size of Croke Park.

The tower block is set to encompass the site of the former Player Wills factory, a beloved art deco building that Dublin 8 Residents Association representative Mark Stedman feels should be preserved by Dublin City Council.  

“A lot of cities reimagine similar industrial buildings, but the development shouldn’t destroy the cultural heritage of the site”

Rebecca Moynihan

“It’s one of the last few remaining industrial boom factories to be found around Dublin, along with the Smurfit printworks site in Glasnevin,” said Stedman, referencing the northside site earmarked by Scanron Limited for a development which was ultimately rejected by An Bord Pleana last year.

Parts of the Player Wills factory are set to be converted into a community centre for arts and culture along with commercial space for businesses and co-working facilities. 

While Dublin City Council have been in contact with Hines regarding the preservation of the site, it has not yet put the building on its list of protected structures. Labour’s senator Rebecca Moynihan has been pushing for the site to be added since November 2018. 

“A lot of cities reimagine similar industrial buildings, but the development shouldn’t destroy the cultural heritage of the site,” said Moynihan, who is particularly concerned about how the building’s interior will be redesigned.

“In the context of the current and future pandemics, for profit co-living is an unsustainable model”

Mark Stedman

Residents have also been critical of the high-density nature of the housing outlined in the plan – particularly the co-living element proposed by Hines. 

Championed by former housing minister Eoghan Murphy, co-living offers residents a private room but shared kitchen facilities. Developments of this nature are also exempt from part V social housing obligations.

“In the context of the current and future pandemics, for profit co-living is an unsustainable model,” said Stedman.

“The housing density is far greater than what you’d see in cities like Paris and London. It’s overpriced student living with a flashier name,” he added.

Senator Moynihan echoed this sentiment, seeing the project as ambitious but ultimately flawed.

“Parts of the development like the retail space on the lower floors are good but the height is really concerning, ideally a development of this scale would be facing a body of water rather than a main road,” said Moynihan.

“You can get good density for inner city housing, but it’s suddenly jumped up to 19 stories,” she continued. 

A peak at the development site. Photo by Jake Hurley

Furthermore, the Labour senator feels that more housing should have been made available for first time buyers and longtime residents. The proposed housing is “almost entirely buy to let”, she said.

Hines’ development update states that the “landlord is keen to promote long term occupation” and further suggests the housing complex is fulfilling an existing need for smaller accommodation in the market.

In addition, “70-80% of all demand for housing in Dublin is for smaller one to two person homes. Indeed 90% of this local districts [sic} rental properties searched on Daft.ie were for one to two bedroom homes,” it reads.

The proposal also emphasises a commitment to “deliver modern, high quality apartments and a quality of life experience”.

Senator Moynihan is unconvinced, however.

“I imagine the units will be very expensive, what we need is more affordable housing,” she said.

“It’s a large site in the middle of a city so it does need to be developed, but the key to any development of this nature is to make it work for both its own residents and residents of the surrounding area,” Moynihan said.

A closer look at Hines’s development site. Photo by Jake Hurley

Mark Stedman is equally sceptical of the development’s potential for alleviating the strains of the housing crisis.

“We’re all short housing, we would like to have housing built, it’s very needed but this just isn’t the right type,” he said.

“It’s all built to rent for extortionate prices, it doesn’t do anything for the housing issues, and It doesn’t add much to the surrounding area,” the Dublin 8 Residents Representative continued.

Last November, minister for housing Daragh O’Brien moved to ban co-living developments. This will not retroactively affect Hines application, however, as it was made prior to this change. 

An Bord Pleana is set to make a final decision regarding the South Circular Road building on 15 April.

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