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Developer scraps plans for 20-bed apartment block in favour of 111-bed co-living development

The company also addressed concerns around meeting Covid-19 public health guidelines in co-living buildings.

Visual of the original apartment block plans from Bartra.
Visual of the original apartment block plans from Bartra.
Image: DCC

PROPERTY DEVELOPERS Bartra have scrapped plans to develop a 20-bed apartment block in Ballsbridge in South Dublin in favour of a co-living development consisting of more than 100 units. 

In 2017, the company was granted permission to demolish the existing guesthouse building located at the 98 Merrion Road site, opposite the British embassy, and to develop 20 “large units” across a five-story apartment block.

When Bartra first acquired the 0.55 acre site, it said it intended “to demolish the existing premises and construct an exclusive, high-end luxury, apartment development”.

Nearby residents on Merrion Road appealed the Dublin City Council decision to An Bord Pleanála. In 2018, the board upheld the council’s decision, and ruled “the proposed development would not seriously injure the visual or residential amenities of properties in the area”. 

However, the company has now submitted a new application to the local authority seeking permission to develop 111 co-living units on the site – consisting of 96 single occupancy rooms, three accessible rooms, and six double occupancy rooms. 

If approved, those rooms would sit alongside shared spaces including a communal living space, and communal kitchen and dining rooms at each floor level. A communal gym and tv room would also be located on site. 

Bartra also listed the Merrion Road site for sale for a period last year after it had secured the planning permission for the apartment block. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie, Bartra CEO Mike Flannery said: “Our shared living proposal at No. 98 Merrion Road, Dublin 4 will see up to 111 residents accommodated within the development, with 136 bicycle spaces and the provision of car sharing services. 

“An alternative traditional apartment development on the site could accommodate 92 residents with 27 car spaces and just 20 bicycle spaces.”

He added: “Single people comprise 40% of Dublin’s population.

“Within that group, there are single people… who do not want to live in apartment or house shares, who do not wish to share their bathrooms or workstations, who believe in a car-free, environmentally-sustainable environment, who value community and wellness and therefore want to avoid the isolation of a one-bedroom apartment.”

Bartra also addressed concerns for residents of co-living buildings in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Flannery said “shared living [..] has the benefit of having been designed in partnership with the leading public health experts at Corporate Health Ireland (CHI), to reflect public health policy in the current Covid-19 pandemic scenario” and suggested that the risk of transmission is “lower” in co-living than other shared houses or apartments. 

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Controversial

The company has been at the fore of developing the controversial co-living units in Ireland in recent years. 

In February, it secured planning permission to develop another co-living building a short distance from St Stephen’s Green in Dublin City centre. 

The proposed development includes 92 units of 16 square metres, two accessible bedrooms of 24 square metres, two twin rooms of 18 square metres and two ‘premium double-occupancy’ rooms of 24 square metres.

In July 2019, An Bord Pleanála also granted permission for a 208-bed co-living development in Dun Laoghaire. 

Last year, the concept of co-living sparked a debate among TDs when the then Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy said “people will be very excited” about the developments, while at the same time Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald was describing them as a “glamourised form of tenement living”.  

The cost of renting a co-living room in a shared complex is thought to be around €1,300.

At the time, Bartra capital told TheJournal.ie the co-living buildings were not designed to solve the housing crisis but to offer a new form of living “for young, single people who are working on an average kind of salary or thereabouts and who are not couples”. 

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