Dundrum locals proactive on shopping centre future
AN unusual step in Irish planning is being taken by residents in the Dundrum area of south Dublin. Rather than wait for a developer to submit a planning application and then object to it, they are undertaking a major consultation process with local businesses, residents, politicians and the developer in advance. Also unusually, their feedback so far suggests that instead of seeking to curtail residential development, they want to encourage it.
They have established a group called ‘Imagine Dundrum’ which is in the course of formulating proposals for the older part of Dundrum village in the section that stretches from the Luas bridge along Main Street up to Campbell’s Corner.
UK shopping centre giants Hammerson, together with its partner, the German insurer Allianz, acquired most of the properties on the western side of the Main Street including the old Dundrum Shopping Centre, now known as Dundrum Village Centre, when they bought the ‘Project Jewel’ loan portfolio, whose most prized asset is the new Dundrum Town Centre from Nama.
About three months ago Hammerson announced the appointment of English architects Faulkner Browne to draw up an outline master plan for its properties in the old Dundrum centre but it is not known when this will be completed.
In 2015 Simon Betty, director of retail, Ireland at Hammerson, told analysts that while the site could be used for additional retail development, it could end up being redeveloped as housing. In an interview with the Irish Independent yesterday, he offered an update, saying: “We think the Dundrum site is particularly suitable for residential given its immediacy to all the amenities of Dundrum and its connectivity to public transport. Participants in the residential development sector have been very keen to talk to us and it’s part of our thinking.”
This differs from plans by the centre’s former owner Joe O’Reilly, who at one stage had ambitions for more retail space and a hotel. After the crash he recruited a range of retailers including Lidl and Dealz to take space in the old centre.
The approach being adopted by Imagine Dundrum has already proven successful in what is termed ‘placemaking’ in other cities. According to a CBRE report on successful placemaking around the world, it can create vibrant urban spaces that offer wellbeing, pleasure and inspiration. “Its success can be measured by improved lives, greater happiness and, when done successfully, an uplift in property values,” it adds.
It instances a New York project known as the High Line as a classic example of successful placemaking, combining civic engagement with urban area planning and private funding.
“Plans for redeveloping the walkway came from the bottom up, with the group ‘Friends of the High Line’ gaining backing from city authorities and private funding through a series of high-visibility displays of the plans,” notes the CBRE report.
Disused railway lines were transformed into a walkway complemented by planted gardens and a number of other static attractions. The walkway attracts 6 million visitors per year and is the backdrop for broader regeneration of the surrounding area as it has become one of the more desirable areas to live in Manhattan. The number of homes has increased by 50pc to around 6,000. Since May 2016, prices for homes appreciated by more than 9pc at a time when luxury-tier homes in Manhattan fell 0.3pc.
Commercial developments have also benefited, with asking rents in buildings adjacent to the High Line Park on average 51pc higher than rents in comparable buildings one block away.
One of the authors of the CBRE report, architect Jan Gehl, says changes to the public realm are one of the most fundamental aspects of placemaking.
Like Hammerson, the Imagine Dundrum group favours more people living on the site as well as over the shops on the Main Street, where they reckon only four people currently live. The group want to highlight the need to integrate well-designed public space and a civic, community and cultural dimension in the new development, to make Dundrum “a truly liveable environment”.
This statement seems surprising considering the numbers visiting and working in Dundrum Town Centre. Hammerson recently reported that 3,824 are employed at Dundrum Town Centre and earned €93m in wages. Local south Dublin residents occupy 85pc of the jobs at Dundrum, with half of those under the age of 25. As much as €29m is paid in employment taxes by Dundrum Town Centre retailers.
However, some locals are also concerned that the area along the Main Street is too quiet at night. As some participants at one of the group’s recent meeting said: “We need to get more life into the village as it goes dead after dark.”
Local architect Eamon Regan has submitted suggestions for the part of the village including a new civic square and market to be located in a section of the car park of the old centre almost opposite AIB Bank. He suggests restaurants and cafés on the ground floors of buildings which would surround the square and gradually rise from three to seven storeys back from the square and Main Street.
This seems laudable in terms of bringing life back to the main street again but it may compete with Hammerson’s existing restaurant precinct, known as The Pembroke District, where restaurants such as Beeftro, Nando’s and Jamie Oliver’s Italian operate in a strip whose character is defined by the former Pembroke Estate’s arts-and-crafts-style cottages.
On the other hand, with the way demand for restaurant and café space is growing, there may be scope for two restaurant districts in Dundrum, but only time, and Hammerson will tell.
Wendy Cox, acting secretary of the Imagine group, says: “We have established cordial contact with senior members of the Hammerson team here and were invited to the launch of their new sustainability strategy in March but we have not been told when the current design process will be completed.”
The group is also concerned that Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCC) will not have formulated a Local Area Plan (LAP) to provide planning parameters for Dundrum before Hammerson submits its planning application. The council has indicated time scales for other LAPs such as the one for neighbouring Stillorgan but none for Dundrum. “So that level of guidance and protection will not be available,” Ms Cox says.
Among the other interesting proposals from Eamon Regan is a mini park which would be built over the Dundrum bypass road and offer direct pedestrian access to residents living to the west of this bypass to both the new market plaza and the Dundrum Luas station.
The group wants to convince the developers and planners of the need for a scheme that includes the restoration and reinstatement of a thriving Dundrum Main Street while retaining existing historical and cultural buildings and landmarks, and reflect the original scale and style of building.
A group of locals have formed a group called ‘Imagine Dundrum’, which is in the process of drawing up proposals to regenerate the old part of Dundrum village