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A CGI image of the the exterior of the proposed redevelopment ModelWorks/DCC
An Bord Pleanála

Contentious €100m St Stephen's Green shopping centre redevelopment stalled after appeal lodged

Former environment editor at The Irish Times Frank McDonald has lodged an appeal to An Bord Pleanála.

CONTENTIOUS PLANS FOR the €100 million redevelopment of the landmark and “outdated” St Stephen’s Green shopping centre in Dublin have been stalled.

This follows former environment editor at The Irish Times Frank McDonald lodging an appeal to An Bord Pleanála against the Dublin City Council grant of permission to Davy entity, DTDL Ltd for the scheme.

An Bord Pleanála confirmed today that McDonald’s appeal is the only appeal in the case though other objectors have until Friday to lodge third party appeals.

Last month, the Council granted planning permission after applicants, DTDL Ltd reduced the scale and massing of the scheme.

The St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre was first opened in 1988 and Davy entity secured the green light for its redevelopment after Davy paid a reported €175 million for the centre on behalf of its clients in 2019.

In a submission to the Council, McDonald told the planning authority that “what is now proposed is an over-scaled office development with retail and food & beverage uses on its two lower levels — including some space for art — along with a cinema in the basement and a restaurant on the fourth floor overlooking St Stephen’s Green.

McDonald stated that the view from within St Stephen’s Green “would be radically changed, and I emphatically do not believe that this is a price worth paying”.

In response to the original proposal before the applicants lodged revised plans, McDonald told the council in an earlier submission that he was “aghast at the arrogance of the applicants in this case proposing three additional floors of offices on top of an architecturally generic replacement of the shopping centre itself”.

He said that “it is deeply regrettable that the applicant rejected suggestions by Dublin City Council’s planners that residential should provide part of the mix of uses. There is a serious shortage of apartments in the city centre that contributes to the housing crisis, whereas central Dublin is awash with office developments at a time when demand for office space — particularly the tech sector — is slackening markedly”.

In recommending a grant of permission, a 51-page Council planner’s report concluded that “the proposed reductions to the scale and massing of the building significantly reduces the visual impact on this sensitive environment”.

The revisions included an increased set back at sixth floor level and the planners state that the setback reduces the appearance of the scheme by one storey and the overall scheme accords with the City Council’s height strategy.

stephens-green-shopping-centre-centrally-located-in-the-heart-of-the-most-prestigious-shopping-area-of-dublin-city The current St Stephen's Green shopping centre Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The planner’s report acknowledged that the existing shopping centre is a local landmark but this was not due to the quality of its architecture and stated that the shopping centre is not a Protected Structure.

The developers are proposing a cinema and gallery space and the Council planner’s report state that these cultural uses are welcome and will further generate activity.

The original scheme lodged in December 2022 comprised a total gross floor area of 87,932sq/m and the overall net increase in gross floor area over the existing development is 21,419sq/m.

The largest component of the new scheme is office use providing for 35,043sq/m of offices and ancillary spaces and the applicants increased the level of retail and food & beverage space after the Council expressed concerns.

An architectural design statement drawn up by architects for the ambitious plan, BKD architects stated that since opening in 1988 the St St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre has faced many difficulties in attracting sustainable retailers.

The report stated that these include that most unit sizes are too small and the smaller shop units particularly those at the upper levels trade poorly and can operate only on short term leases.

Now, as part of the plan, the scheme is to reconfigure the street level retail mall to allow for larger and enhanced quality shops with a partial retail level at first floor and commercial office uses in the upper floors.

The applicants are also proposing to introduce a new cafe/restaurant/bar zone linking the mall to the street.

Planning consultants for the scheme, John Spain & Associates told the Council that the existing building “has become outdated” and the proposal seeks to enhance a high quality shopping centre and office facility on a centrally located site.

Spain argues that the proposal represents a significant rejuvenation of a key site at the gateway to Dublin’s south retail core.

The report states that the St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre is currently underperforming in its retail function and the proposal through the provision of medium sized units, which are currently in demand by higher order retailers, has the potential to significantly improve the retail offering in the area.