Fine Gael Councillors at the February meeting of City Council submitted an Emergency Motion on the issue of the proposed Parnell Square Cultural Quarter to be located in the heart of the #NorthInnerCity.
Our emergency motion sought an update on the current status of the project, one of the most important contained within the City Council’s Capital Plan. Furthermore, we wanted clarity on:
- The status of the detailed design works for the City Library,
- The proposed approach to the construction, whether it will be a direct design/built or other,
- The indicative timeframe for the selection process of a building contractor,
- The indicative timeframe for the duration of construction work,
- The Project governance arrangements, including membership of the Project Board, meeting frequency and the schedule of meetings for 2022.
While the motion was not accepted by the Lord Mayor for debate, a report was prepared for the Fine Gael Group which I have shared it below.
If you have any specific questions or queries regarding the plans for the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter, including the proposed City Library, please get in touch with me by email at RayMcAdam@gmail.com.
What is Parnell Square Cultural Quarter?
Parnell Square Cultural Quarter (PSCQ) is a proposed new Cultural Quarter at Parnell Square West that has been in development by Dublin City Council (DCC) since 2013.
What’s in it?
A new city library and a range of cultural facilities, including a music centre, a design space, an innovation hub, a business library, a conference space, an education centre, a café and an exhibition area.
What else is in it?
The proposed development also includes the redevelopment of the Georgian houses at Number 20 to Number 28 Parnell Square West, and a new public plaza created in front of the city library buildings and the Hugh Lane Gallery.
How much is it going to cost?
The full development of the PSCQ was originally estimated at €130 million. The project is being very carefully managed in terms of cost control, and we will have a clear view of the final project cost at the construction tender stage.
Who’s paying for it?
The original funding mechanism was designed to deliver the project via philanthropic support. In 2019 it became clear that the required funding could not be raised by our philanthropic partner, Kennedy Wilson. Following a project review, in July 2019 DCC was advised by a consultant that the required private fundraising could take over 3 years and that there was no guarantee it would be successful. DCC therefore decided to take full responsibility for the delivery of the project and deliver it on a phased basis, under planning permission granted in May 2019.
So DCC is paying for it?
Only some of it. The PSCQ received approval for Urban Regeneration and Development Fund funding in March 2021. The funding amount was €56,634,459 for Phase 1 and €14,187,041 for public realm works. The balance of the funding will be provided by DCC. In accordance with the Public Spending Code, DCC is in the process of preparing a detailed Business Case to be presented to the Department of Housing, Planning, and Local Government.
How much has DCC spent to date?
DCC has spent approximately €2.5 million so far on security, site surveys and investigation works, building maintenance.
How much did Kennedy Wilson contribute to the project?
Kennedy Wilson provided seed capital of €4.8 million.
What is the procedure for DCC to borrow for this project?
In relation to all borrowings of DCC, a report must first be put to the City Council seeking approval. Once granted, approval is then sought from our parent Government department, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage for its approval to borrow.
Has the original plan changed?
No, the ambition remains the same, although it will now be delivered on a phased basis.
So what are the phases?
Phase 1 works are currently being developed. This includes construction of the new city library, demolition of the Amhraclann, essential works to house No 27 Parnell Square North and works (roofing, mechanical and electrical) to the Hugh Lane Gallery.
What else is happening in Phase 1?
The contract for the incumbent design team led by Grafton and Shaffrey Architects was terminated in December 2021 following receipt of their fee proposal for the future design stages. The design team contract had been paused since March 2020 while the scope of works was reviewed.
At present, work is progressing on the preparation of tender documents for the demolition of the Amhraclann. A Consultant Structural Engineer, Quantity Surveyor, Health and Safety expert and Archaeologist are almost all in place. A demolition sequence report, an asbestos survey and a waste classification report have been compiled and will be included in the tender.
The first stage of the tender competition for the demolition contract will be issued shortly. It is envisaged that a demolition contractor will be on site by approximately late summer. Also included in the demolition contract are site investigation works. Information from the site investigation is needed for the detailed design.
Engagement with the local community has commenced.
Tender documents for a multi-disciplinary design team to undertake detailed design, preparation of tender documents, procurement and supervision of the works on the new library and the Hugh Lane to handover stage are now being compiled. While the demolition contract is progressing, a tender will be issued for a multi-disciplined design team.
Why was the design team’s contract terminated?
In 2021, at the request of Dublin City Council, the design team led by Grafton and Shaffrey Architects was invited to submit a fee with an associated programme for the detailed design work stages etc.to project completion. DCC representatives met Grafton and Shaffrey Architects in September 2021 to ensure there was clarity around both the fee proposal and the programme submission. A fee and programme was submitted to DCC by the design team in October 2021.
Following a careful analysis of the submitted proposal, the steering board of the PSCQ decided not to accept the design team fee. This was communicated to Grafton and Shaffrey in December 2021.
The reason for the rejection, which was relayed to Grafton and Shaffrey, was that the fee proposed was unacceptable to DCC.
Won’t this delay the project?
Only slightly. DCC owns the design and will proceed with the current design to comply with the planning permission granted.
What is the current status of the project?
Delivery of the project continues at pace, and we hope to have phase 1 of the project complete by 2027.
When will the new City Library be finished and how much will it cost?
It is anticipated that construction and commissioning stage will take two to three years once the construction procurement stage is complete. The project is estimated for completion in 2027. The original cost was €80 million, however DCC is reviewing this figure in light of current market inflation costs and the addition of the Hugh Lane Gallery works package.
What’s happening with the other phases?
DCC is committed to a number of additional phases.
What will happen to the Central Library currently operating in the ILAC?
Once the new City Library at the PSCQ is ready, the Central Library in the ILAC will close and move to the new premises where it will have greater space, enhanced facilities and more services for its loyal community of users.
Will The Hugh Lane Gallery be involved with the new City Library in any way?
Yes, Dublin City Gallery The Hugh Lane will be an integral part of the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter, housing as it does one of Ireland’s foremost collections of modern and contemporary art. Dublin City Libraries currently work closely with the Gallery on a day-to-day basis, collaborating on programming, education and outreach programmes. It is envisaged that this collaboration will continue to grow, especially in the context of the proposed education centre and the conference centre which will support both library and gallery activities.
How did Dublin City Council acquire the former Colaiste Mhuire buildings?
The buildings were taken into DCC’s ownership from the OPW which had acquired ownership as part of the Religious Orders Redress Scheme.
Did Dublin City Council pay the OPW/Department of Education for the Colaiste Mhuire buildings?
There was no fee for the transfer, however DCC transferred some sites in Finglas and Inchicore to the OPW as part of the process.
What are the plans for the civic plaza and will it reduce the number of traffic lanes on Parnell Square North?
In accordance with the granted planning, it is proposed to remove parking and reduce the traffic lanes to the minimum width required for vehicle movements. This will calm traffic and re-balance the space in favour of pedestrian movements, giving space to allow activities. The redesigned space will re-establish the connection between the buildings of Parnell Square North and the Garden of Remembrance and the wider square. It is intended to utilise high quality materials similar to the O’Connell Street public realm works completed in 2006.
Will the construction of the new City Library and civic plaza have any impact on the Parnell Square area being used as an assembly point for large city gatherings such as the St Patrick’s Festival Parade or protest marches?
No, we don’t expect that there will be any impact and we will certainly be open to working with the event organisers to facilitate the continued use of Parnell Square as a gathering point.
What is the Governance Structure of the Project?
As with all major capital projects that the City Council is promoting a Project Governance Board has been established under the Chair of the Chief Executive: Members of the Board are:
Assistant Chief Executive Planning, Property Development/CRES; Project Manager; City Librarian; Executive Manager Finance; Executive Manager CRES; External Consultant.
It is proposed to have a project update presented to every 2nd/3rd meeting of Arts, Culture, Leisure & Recreation SPC by a member of the Project Governance Board
Fine Gael Councillor - North Inner City
Chair, Urban Form & Planning Strategic Policy Committee