OPW puts plans for Dublin skyscraper on hold


PLANS TO create Ireland's tallest building, a 32-storey skyscraper by Heuston Station in Dublin, are the latest victim of the downturn in the property market.

Three years after securing planning permission to build the apartment block as part of a residential, office and cultural centre, the Office of Public Works has put the ambitious development on hold.

The OPW is still saying the project could proceed, but with just two years left on the planning permission, industry sources say this is very unlikely in its present form. At the height of the property boom, the land with planning permission was estimated to be worth €100 million, but is unlikely to fetch that sum in current market conditions.

A spokesman said the State body had not been in contact with any potential developers in the private sector about a joint venture, nor had it opened discussions with the HSE, Revenue Commissioners and Garda Síochána, which occupy part of the 4.5-acre site and would have to leave before development could begin.

"We're holding fast and considering our options," the spokesman told The Irish Timeslast week. "We're not going to break ground on this while the market is as it is. If the market stagnates or declines further, there won't be any point."

At almost 120 metres, the largest tower in the Heustongate development would be nearly twice the height of Liberty Hall. The development provided for nearly 200 apartments, 14,000 sq m of offices, 20 shops and a children's museum.

The museum, to be known as Exploration Station, has been in planning since 2003, when the then tánaiste Mary Harney promised the interactive learning facility would mark a giant step forward for young people's interaction with science.

Heustongate got planning permission three years ago this month when An Bord Pleanála overruled one of its senior inspectors who had recommended the tower be omitted. At the time, it was envisaged the OPW would either proceed with the development directly, via a joint venture arrangement, or tender the project to a single developer while retaining control over the cultural and historic buildings on the site.