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Friday 29 September 2023 Dublin: 10°C
# Millennium Tower
'A statement of national pride' with 30-mile views: the unsuccessful plan to build Dublin's Eiffel Tower
The £40m building was projected to attract 500,000 visitors every year.

Millennium Tower1 National Archives An artist's impression of the proposed Millennium Tower National Archives

WITH A UNIQUE offer of panoramic views of the Irish capital, Dublin’s answer to the Eiffel Tower was expected to attract more than 500,000 visitors every year.

But in spite of its lofty ambitions, the £40m project never got off the ground.

Details of the proposal by the now-dissolved company Renaissance Developments were contained in an application for European Commission structural funds in 1989, released this week under the 30-year State Papers rule.

According to the application, the 184m Millennium Tower in Dublin’s IFSC was to be a “major central tourist attraction” intended to act as a focal point for visitors to the city.

The classically designed building would have contained 57,000 square metres of offices, four flats, six penthouses, a restaurant, and space for a swimming pool and a nightclub, all of which would help to finance the tower on an ongoing basis.

But despite these features, the building was primarily intended to be an observation tower, similar to the CN Tower in Toronto or the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

If it was built, it would have been more than double the size of Ireland’s current tallest building, Capital Dock, 63m taller than the Spire on Dublin’s O’Connell Street and similar in height to Seattle’s Space Needle and London’s Gherkin.

As part of their application, Renaissance Developments also outlined the scale of their plans to the Government at the time:

The attraction to Dublin of an observation tower would be considerable as it would give opportunities to visitors and residents alike to appreciate the fine bay around which the city is spread.
Not many cities can boast such an interesting relationship between city and bay. Most of the more well-known cities around the world have exploited this relationship, [but] Dublin has not.

30-mile views

The company planned to charge visitors £3 each to go to the top of the tower, where they would enjoy 30-mile views in all directions, and it was also intended to place video features and a souvenir shop at the observation level.

According to the company’s application, plans for the tower were originally submitted to Custom House Docks Development Authority (CHDDA) as part of the development of what is now the IFSC in the late 1980s.

Initially, Renaissance Developments proposed building the tower at Custom House Docks.

But by the time the company was applying to the EC for £17m in funding in 1989, it claimed it had held discussions to build at a number of (unspecified) locations on both sides of the river between the Custom House and the East Link Toll Bridge.

However, it said its preference was for a development near the IFSC, with the 22-acre Gas Company site, formerly at at the corner of Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and Cardiff Lane, singled out.

“It is considered that, while the view may be better as one approaches the mouth of the Liffey, a location within walking distance of O’Connell Street would be preferable,” the application read.

Slender build

Meanwhile, Renaissance Developments had a novel solution to the expected visual impact the Millennium Tower would have as a result of its height – a “slender” build.

The application read:

While it is appreciated that there will be some overshadowing as a result of the height of the tower, it is felt that because of its slenderness and its location on a docks site, this overshadowing will be limited.

It was further claimed that the plan had the support of Bord Fáilte, and that the tower would attract around 500,000 visitors a year, compared with 1.8m visitors the for CN Tower.

Possible sponsorship from Dublin Corporation, Bord Fáilte and the government were also mooted, although Renaissance Developments accepted that this may have been problematic given the economic environment at the time.

“The promoters believe that the employment, both direct and indirect, associated with the project, together with the economic impact of spin-off activities more than justify EC grants involved,” the company summarised.

“This project offers the opportunity to contribute to a really worthwhile monument to the country, both past and the future.

“The tower can be a symbol of the country’s energy and a statement of national pride and confidence. The promoters have a vision which is worthy of support.”

Ultimately, that vision was too pie in the sky. Renaissance Developments was subsequently dissolved in 1992.

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