Dublin inner city regeneration project is under threat

Community groups react angrily as council says renovation of school is not ‘cost effective’

 

The credibility of the Government’s much-vaunted regeneration of Dublin’s north-east inner city is under threat as a key element seems unlikely to be delivered.

One of the “immediate measures” committed to by the Government last July, as part of its response to a spate of gangland shootings in the area, was the refurbishment of the old Rutland Street school building.

The striking, 105-year-old building was a boys’ and girls’ national school until 2008. Rutland Street school still exists, having moved to a purpose-built facility in nearby Gloucester Place nine years ago.

Its three-storey, 148sq m (16,000sq ft) former home has been almost vacant since then.

A pre-school and crèche operates in three rooms on the ground floor, while the rest is closed off.

Beautiful building

Plans to refurbish it – first as a school and later as a community centre – have been drawn up and dropped twice since 2000. Costs were estimated at between €1.5 million and €3 million.

Its inclusion in the regeneration plan seemed to promise the project would finally get underway.

However, last week Dublin City Council wrote to local stakeholders, saying that following a “general scope” of works, the estimated cost was now €12.8 million and so it would not be “cost effective”.

Locals are “furious”, says Sarah Kelleher, manager of the Lourdes Youth and Community Services (LYCS) which operates the preschool as well youth and adult education projects in the area.

Some doubt whether the €12.8 million is in fact genuine, she says

“People fear there is another plan for the building; maybe to sell it. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in the area.

“There is a massive conglomeration of housing, and poverty, in this area and nothing for the people, no focal facility.

“If this promise is broken the [ministerial] regeneration task-force will have no credibility around here.”

‘Very frustrating’

One elderly woman (who did not want to be named), who has lived on Rutland Street all her life, had been looking forward to the school opening again.

“In the last few years all you see when you go out the door is drug-dealing. They [the dealers ] are up at the top of the street every morning.

“You can imagine how wonderful it would be to have the building open and alive. It would bring life to the street and the area, which is badly needed.”

The apparent threat to the project is “very frustrating”, said Trina O’Connor who manages the North City Centre Community Action Project which is one the groups that was expected to be based in a refurbished Rutland Street school.

“We have been talking about this for years. This community is crying out for a community centre. They expect the best of us in this community, but give us the least.”

Seanie Lamb, community activist for several decades in the area, said there was “no logical reason” for not delivering on the commitment.

“Just as we’re about get the go ahead the council pulls this €12.8 million rabbit out of its hat. It’s just unacceptable.”

A spokesman for Dublin City Council said: “The potential for the creation of a community hub on the Rutland Street school site is a priority.

“We are currently examining all options to achieve a plan which will enhance the working environment for the community organisations and end users and offer greater opportunities for expanded services for the wider community.”

Former Workplace Relations Commission chairman Kieran Mulvey will present his report on what the northeast inner city needs – which was written for the Ministerial taskforce – to the community on Wednesday.