Dun­drum lo­cals proac­tive on shop­ping cen­tre fu­ture

Irish Independent - Business Week - - COMMERCIAL PROPERTY - Donal Buck­ley

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

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