Dublin City Council has increased the number of homes it hopes to develop on land at St Michael’s Estate in Inchicore, in a development that will be fully rental and social.
Plans released this month as part of a third the round of consultation – which runs until March 31 – with Dubliners for the city’s flagship public housing scheme shows 548 flats, down from a suggested 484 towards the end of last year.
The designs also show a library and community center overlooking Emmet Road, as well as a nursery, supermarket, cafe, shops and three public squares.
There was a drift in the council’s timeline for the project. In December 2020, a spokesperson for the council said it hoped to submit a planning application to An Bord Pleanála in April 2021.
During online briefing on March 24, Merritt Bucholz, design team leader of Bucholz McEvoy Architects, said the council expects to submit a planning application this fall.
During the March 24 webinar, Bucholz presented development designs that would provide new services to Inchicore.
“Not really just for people who are going to live in the new apartments, but for people who are already at Inchicore,” he said.
The library and community center – with space for exhibits, an atrium and meeting rooms – would sit on the northeast corner of the development, with entrances to a new public plaza called “Emmet Place”, overlooking Emmet Road, the presentation shows.
Says Bucholz: “During the public consultation process, we heard a lot about the desire for a cultural venue, venues for music, venues for the arts and also venues for sports and activities.
They tried to do it, he said. “Not just inside the building, but also outside the building to make all the spaces around it really active places.”
An affordable supermarket would face Emmet Road, he said. “Inchicore needs a supermarket, everyone knows that.”
There would also be room for a crèche, other shops and two cafes.
A question was asked about a community pitch.
Sandra McAleer, the council’s project manager, said the council had considered incorporating land into the development, to replace the existing land – which will be built – at the existing Inchicore Community Sports Centre.
There is no room for a location on site, McAleer said, but the council has pledged to provide a nearby location.
The council reviewed Turvey Park, she said. “We are working to provide a pitch and hopefully provide it before the new development.”
Under current designs for the planned new development at St Michael’s Estate, 19% of the land would be public open space, including three new public squares.
“Emmet Place”, in the northeast corner, would face Emmet Road next to the library and community center, while “Richmond Place”, to the east, would sit on Patriot’s Path next to Richmond Barracks.
In the southwest corner, “Goldenbridge Place” would be at the St Vincent’s Street West entrance to Goldenbridge Cemetery and Core Youth Service.
Next to the existing Inchicore Community Sports Center, which will be retained, behind the library and community center, near the northeast corner of the development, there would be public youth play spaces and facilities, Bucholz said, ” which also host meetings and mixing between young people and seniors”.
The streets around the development need an overhaul, he said. In the plans, St Vincent’s Street West and Patriot’s Path would be connected to public squares, and streets crossing east to west through the development would be open to the public.
“Supporting that kind of connectivity and permeability across the site is crucial to making antisocial behavior really difficult,” he said.
“It means you have a, you know, a development that’s now part of the city, it’s not an entryway or an exit,” he says.
Good street lighting can make the streets a place where people can meet, he said. “Where you recognize people walking down the street day and night.”
Trees and planting around the area would contribute to sustainable urban drainage to help prevent flooding, he said.
Getting There and Going Away
At the meeting, Ian Crehan, a consulting engineer with O’Connor Sutton Cronin, said his team had worked to strike a balance between car parking and encouraging other forms of transport.
The site is already well served by bus routes, Luas, cycle routes and is close to Heuston station, Crehan said, so they don’t want too much parking. (Heuston station is about 2 km away.)
Beneath the supermarket would be 59 bicycle parking spaces and 56 car parking spaces (including three accessible spaces) and electric vehicle charging points, all accessible to the public.
For residents, there would be, inside the blocks, 939 closed bicycle parking spaces, 293 visitor bicycle spaces, 50 private car parking spaces (including three accessible spaces), 30 carpool spaces and terminals charging for electric vehicles.
Says Crehan: “We’re trying to really encourage moving away from the car as the primary source of transportation.”
They develop mobility plans and traffic assessments for the planning application, he said.
How many houses with how many bedrooms there will be, and which of them would be rented as a cost rental and which as a social, has been debated around the site.
30% of housing must be social housing and 70% must be rental housing, the new rental model (for Ireland), which provides for rent set at a level that covers housing development and a small profit.
In December last year, Labor Councilor Darragh Moriarty said he was concerned that too many small rental houses were indicating they were considered temporary accommodation rather than long-term sustainable rental accommodation.
The designs now show that 15% of the apartments would be studios, 33% would be one-bed apartments, 45% would be two-bed apartments and 7% would be three-bed apartments.
At the meeting, Rory Kunz, planning consultant for John Spain Associates, said the council’s analysis showed the greatest demand was for one and two bedroom apartments.
It’s not just traditional nuclear families looking for homes in the city, he said. “Society has changed and mixed development reflects this.”
Rental homes would be affordable in the long term, he said. “Which will encourage people to put down roots for the long haul compared to market rent apartment schemes, which are considered more transitional in nature.”
Under legislation introduced last year, people living in rental accommodation have more security than those in the traditional rental market, and rents must be at least 25% below market rents.
At the meeting, McAleer, the council’s project manager, said the houses for rent would be a mix of studios, as well as two and three beds. None of the studios would be social homes, she said.
Most apartments will have entrance halls, plenty of storage and private balconies, said Bucholz, the architect.
The apartments would have good light, Bucholz said. “Having access to daylight, being able to tell what time of year it is by the way the sun enters your living room or your bedroom.”
Half of the apartments would have windows facing two directions, most being south and east or north and west. The other half would mostly have an east or west-facing window, he said.
The height of the buildings would vary depending on the development, he said, with the tallest being seven stories and the lowest two. “Having different heights of buildings is important to building a strong public realm.”
Residents will also have private yard space, he said. There would be a courtyard above the supermarket and two courtyards in the center of the apartment blocks.
“We see them as gardens for people who live in the community,” Bucholz said, where there would be play areas and benches. “These are spaces that can support a large amount of biodiversity.”
The drawings show an “energy center” next to the nativity scene. Rather than boilers inside each apartment, the energy hub would be a renewable, shared energy source, Bucholz said.
“There is, I think, a common goal of phasing out fossil fuels. And so we work very hard and make sure that is part of what we do here,” he said.
“That means we can really reduce the cost of power generation, which makes the units affordable,” Bucholz said.
Residents would still have access to nature, he said. “I think climate responsiveness is definitely tied to how well we manage to incorporate nature into every part of the design.”