Dublin central library plans halted

Thu, Dec 29, 2011, 00:00

PLANS TO create a new central library in one of the oldest theatre buildings in the State, the former Ambassador cinema on Dublin’s Parnell Square, have been abandoned by Dublin City Council.

The council in 2007 announced its intention to relocate the city library from the nearby Ilac shopping centre to the Ambassador, at an annual rent of €1.2 million in addition to initial fit-out and tax-related costs of up to €8 million.

A council report published in 1996 found that the Ilac library was badly located and had inadequate facilities despite having opened just 10 years earlier.

The Ambassador library was to have been developed between 2011 and 2014, but has been removed from the capital budget for the next three years, which states that “alternative site scenarios are currently being reviewed and costed”.

The Ilac library, which now serves approximately half a million visitors a year, “continues to physically deteriorate and is in need of total refurbishment and upgrading”, the council said.

“It is inadequate for reasons, which include poor location, no public visibility and no off-street presence, all detrimental to maximising the potential for attracting public usage.”

However the council has decided not to go ahead with the Ambassador project. Ambitions for the library had been “heightened” as a result of Dublin’s designation as a Unesco City of Literature in July 2010, it said.

“Space plan modelling and feasibility testing of the requirements of the city library brief revealed a minimum space requirement of 5,000 sq metres in a landmark building in the heart of Dublin City Centre. This was not achievable within the site of the Ambassador Theatre.”

The lease on the Ilac expires in 2016 and the council said it would be “desirable” to have the new library opened by this date. A number of sites in the city centre are under consideration including buildings of “significant educational, architectural and historic interest”, the council said.

It said it could not estimate the costs of developing the library until a specific site was selected.

The Ambassador Theatre was opened in 1767 to raise funds for the hospital. Originally called the Round Room, or Rotundo, the theatre became a cinema and was renamed the Ambassador in the 1940s.

In recent decades the cinema closed periodically, but its use as a cinema ended permanently in 1999. The theatre subsequently reopened as a music venue and has more recently been used as an exhibition space. It remains in the ownership of the hospital.