New DIT campus will redraw Dublin

Huge changes are afoot at DIT as its scattered campus begins the migration to a new home

Extending the city fabric: (from left) Niamh Cuddy, Joanna Sikora, Kirstan Bontas, Shannon Delahunty and Andrea Kennedy at the launch of the development of the new urban quarter in Grangegorman that will be soon be home to the amalgamated DIT campus. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Extending the city fabric: (from left) Niamh Cuddy, Joanna Sikora, Kirstan Bontas, Shannon Delahunty and Andrea Kennedy at the launch of the development of the new urban quarter in Grangegorman that will be soon be home to the amalgamated DIT campus. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 06:00

Most Dubliners are aware by now that the multi-campus college that is DIT is making its way to a new one-stop-shop in north Dublin. What is less well known is the huge impact that this move is going to have on the city of Dublin, as DIT gets set to occupy a new city quarter that will transform the area forever.

Prof Brian Norton, president of DIT, says that for the 20,000 students studying at the institute the move should be seamless. The Grangegorman campus has been home to DIT playing fields and students’ union events for many years now, so the buildings are familiar.

And a number of DIT’s services have already relocated to Grangegorman. The vanguards of the move – from a student perspective – will be the arts, science and social science students, roughly 1,000 of whom will make the move to Grangegorman in September 2014.

There will follow three years of continued expansion at the campus in time to accommodate DIT’s intention to have 10,000 students on campus by September 2017. By that same year, the DIT campus at Grangegorman will have its own Luas stop at DIT Broadstone. The transformation will be complete by 2020 when all activities and students will be based at Grangegorman.

At the heart of the city
Norton wants to debunk any notion that DIT students are being cast out into the sticks. The new entrance, off the North Circular Road near Phibsborough, will be a hop and a skip from O’Connell Street, he says, and just two Luas stops away when the new system is in place.

“The first thousand students to move to the campus next year will be coming from our current campuses on Mountjoy Square and Portland Row. They will use a dedicated entrance just down the road from the Phibsborough crossroads, well-serviced by buses. They will be still be very much at the heart of the city but as the campus grows, they will enjoy services they currently don’t have all in the one place: canteens, careers services, health, sports. It will be much more accessible.”

The Grangegorman campus, once the site of St Brendan’s Hospital, comprises 70 acres, 50 acres of which will be occupied by educational buildings when the development is complete. It will have an indelible effect on the geography of Dublin, says Prof Norton.

“This will constitute a new quarter of the city, transformed like the docklands was over the past decade,” he says.

“It’s a total reorientation from what there is now, extending the city fabric. It will have a huge impact on local businesses. There is a new small primary school planned, a new library and of course a Luas station.”

For those students expecting to move out of the city centre, Norton suggests that the city is spreading out with the development of the new campus and all its supporting infrastructure.

To those students remaining in the current buildings until 2017, Norton extends his reassurances; they will not find themselves abandoned in crumbling facilities to wait out the move. Light bulbs will be replaced. In fact, some facilities have been given refurbishments – for instance, the Fit2Go sports centre at the Kevin Street campus was given a facelift last autumn.

“We have invested heavily in our present facilities at Kevin Street, where we have new biology and chemistry labs, and at our architecture facilities in Linen Hall, including new classrooms and laboratories,” says Norton.

Meanwhile development at Grangegorman will see new classrooms and labs blended with original protected structures as well as performance spaces and sports facilities.

Historical structures
“Right now there are some fine refurbished stone buildings on the site that are well-preserved and full of light. These historical structures combined with the new buildings will together create a campus for the modern age,” says Norton.

So what will all this mean for those students getting an offer of a place in DIT this morning? They can expect to be inducted into the new campus very soon, according to Prof Norton.

“We’ll be fully inducting the students into the new building as an ongoing process. It’s already a DIT campus so students will be introduced to Grangegorman along with all our other sites. There’s a lot of SU activity already going on there so it’s very much part of the student experience already.”

One of the unique aspects of DIT has always been its scattered campus woven into the fabric of Dublin city. Will the next DIT be a more traditional college as a result of the move?

“DIT will still be intimately linked with city centre. It will share some of the features of a traditional campus, but will occupy a city quarter.

“It will be accessible to the city as it has always been, which for us represents the continuation of a metaphor: DIT as an intellectually accessible place of learning.”

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