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Dublin: 5 °C Thursday 14 November, 2019
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Student accommodation planned for former Rialto Cinema site

The plans state that the original Art Deco facade would be retained, but the rest of the site demolished.

A DEVELOPER PLANS on turning the former Rialto Cinema into purpose-built student accommodation. 

Molaga Capital Limited has applied to An Bord Pleanála through strategic housing development (SHD) to turn the former cinema site into a 317-bed student building. 

The site is currently vacant, having formerly been a motor sales showroom and before that the cinema. It is proposed to turn it into a mixed-use site with residential student accommodation and a café with an outdoor garden area.

Local Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan told TheJournal.ie that she has contacted all the councillors in the area to try to arrange a meeting to discuss the proposed development. 

She expressed disappointment over the fact the vacant site could be turned into student accommodation while Dublin is experiencing a housing crisis.

Should the planning permission be approved, all of the buildings and structures on the site would be demolished. However, the front Art Deco section of the building would be retained, “restored to its original form, and incorporated into the proposed development”.

The development will also consist of the construction of a mixed-use building (with a total area of c. 11,266 sq m) ranging in height from three to seven storeys over basement, with 317 student beds arranged in 313 rooms. There would be 276 one-bed bedrooms, four two-bed bedrooms and 33 studios. 

There would also be four open courtyards, a TV lounge; gym; cinema; communal areas; circulation areas; reception; library; and a meeting/event room.

The site is 100m from the junction of Dolphins Barn Street on the South Circular Road.

When the site went up for sale for €2.5 million, the real estate agent BNP said of it:

With the extremely well documented shortage of residential and student accommodation the timing of such a development is extremely favourable and should afford a developer the opportunity to capitalise on the strong demand from occupier markets.
…this asset is an ideal City Centre opportunity for an investor developer looking to capitalise on an area on the verge of transformation.

Disappointment

Cllr Moynihan told TheJournal.ie of the site: “I think it’s been lying derelict for over 20 years but it’s really disappointing that it’s student accommodation that’s going in there. I think there needs to be a mix of services and housing.”

She added that in terms of the strategic housing development applications being put through for the local area, the most common are student accommodation, followed by build to rent, followed by co-living. 

“So we’re not seeing long-term apartments that people can live in,” said Moynihan. She said that she would prefer the site to be turned into a building with a mix of services on the bottom floor and housing above it. 

Moynihan added: “I just can’t see that there are that many students who have the amount of money that the student accommodation providers are charging.”

Under strategic housing development rules, developers can bypass the local authority for student accommodation for more than 200 beds, and go straight to An Bord Pleanála.

“I suppose the worry is that you’re only going to have people coming and staying for as short as nine months [in the student accommodation],” said the councillor. “The bigger worry seems to me there is an oversupply of student accommodation coming down the line when we’re in the midst of a housing crisis.”

The site notice went up on 6 August, and there are now five weeks in which people can make submissions or observations in writing to ABP on the proposed development.

Currently in the Dublin 8 area, there are:

  • Two proposed student accommodation buildings (Sweeney’s Corner, Grand Canal Harbour)
  • One under construction
  • Five completed
  • Two approved

The cost of student accommodation in Dublin has been criticised, with new student rooms in some buildings costing a minimum of €249 a week.

In April of this year, a survey found that just under 80% of students living in privately-operated purpose-built student accommodation in Dublin are international students.

On average they had a rent of €250-a-week. Residents said they spent on average €64 weekly in the local area. 

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