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Dublin City Council says sale of former Magdalene Laundry site is 'chance of a lifetime'

Objections have been raised to the proposed sale of the site to a Japanese hotel chain.

hotel1 View of proposed hotel design Source: Dublin City Council

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL has said the redevelopment of a former Magdalene Laundry site on Sean McDermott Street is “a powerful opportunity” and “the chance of a lifetime” for the area.

A new report compiled by Brendan Kenny, Deputy Chief Executive of DCC, looks into proposals made the preferred bidder, Japanese hotel chain Toyoko Inn.

The company has offered the council €14.5 million for the site, on which it plans to build a hotel with 350 rooms, 55 one-bedroom apartments for social housing, a supermarket and other retail outlets, a cultural centre, and a Laundry memorial.

The reports states that 50% of the proceeds of the sale (€7.25 million), should it go ahead, be ring-fenced for DCC projects in the area, namely the proposed full refurbishment of the former Rutland Street National School for use as a community hub.

Magdalene Laundries were institutions run by the Catholic Church which took in so-called ‘fallen women’ and gave them manual labour to do – many survivors were cruelly and brutally treated during their time there.

In October 1996 the Sean McDermott Street site became the last of these institutions to close.

dev The site of the proposed development is outlined in red Source: Dublin City Council

At the time of publication more than 10,000 people had signed a petition calling for the sale to be prevented.

Social Democrat councillor Gary Gannon, who set up the petition, said the sale would amount to “an act of cultural vandalism”.

“Dublin City Council has a responsibility and a duty to halt this sale and not discard this building and all the cultural and personal history it symbolises … We spent long enough brushing issues we didn’t like under the carpet,” he said last week

‘Very sensitive nature of the site’ 

In its report, DCC states that Toyoko has “indicated its awareness of the historic and very sensitive nature of the site”.

“They are very happy to include a memorial garden to commemorate former workers in the Magdalene Laundries here and throughout the country. The memorial garden is beautifully situated and adjoins the Chapel which is of real architectural merit.”

garden Proposed sensory memorial garden Source: Dublin City Council

Later in the document, the council states that it is “very conscious of the history of this property/site (the Laundry part of the premises was demolished in 2005 following a fire) and the controversial role also played by the Magdalene Homes at other locations throughout the country”.

It is very appropriate that a suitable permanent memorial be included in any proposed redevelopment of this property/site. Therefore there will be a specific condition in the Development Agreement with Toyoko for the provision of such a memorial.

Tokoyo is expected to spend in the region of €50 million on the project during construction, which would create about 700 jobs. Over 100 jobs would be created once the hotel becomes operational, the report states.

Housing

Given the current homelessness crisis and lack of affordable housing in Dublin city, the council says it is “essential that more private housing gets developed in this area over the coming years”. DCC gets 10% of all new residential developments for social housing.

We are strongly of the view that the strategic position of the Convent site merits an economic regenerative solution which will benefit the whole area in terms of footfall, jobs and act as a catalyst for further physical redevelopment in the area rather than the provision of further social housing.

“It is important to note that the Preferred Bidder (Developer) has now agreed to provide 55 one bedroomed apartments instead of the original proposal of student apartments,” the report states. 

railway Proposed view along Railway Street Source: Dublin City Council

DCC says it will use these apartments to accommodate “mainly single elderly persons from the housing waiting list”. Priority will be given to applicants from the general area who would be downsizing from existing larger accommodation.

The possibility of Affordable Housing for purchase has been mentioned, however the construction of apartments in the inner city is costly and this would be compounded by the need to carry out costly renewal and conservation of existing buildings on the site.

“Therefore in our view affordable housing would not be viable on this site,” the report adds.

A vote on the approval of the sale of the site was adjourned by the council last week and is now due to take place on Thursday.

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Órla Ryan

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