Work to begin on €150m ESB headquarters next January

Temporary staff relocation in Dublin 3 for semi-State agreed

ESB HQ:  it created controversy after 16 Georgian houses were cleared in the 1960s to make way for the Sam Stephenson- and Arthur Gibney-designed block

ESB HQ: it created controversy after 16 Georgian houses were cleared in the 1960s to make way for the Sam Stephenson- and Arthur Gibney-designed block

 
Construction of the €150 million new ESB headquarters on Fitzwilliam Street in Dublin 2 – one of the largest office developments ever planned for the city – will begin

next January after the semi-State agreed a short-term letting to house its staff while building work takes place.

When complete, the office element of the development will be 50 per cent occupied by the ESB with the balance, capable of accommodating 1,400 office workers, available for letting on the open market.

The ESB’s headquarters, designed by architects Sam Stephenson and Arthur Gibney in the 1960s, created controversy from the off after a parade of 16 Georgian houses were cleared to make way for it. This modernist encroachment on the city’s so-called “Georgian Mile” was, for conservationists, one of the worst crimes ever committed against Dublin’s historic core.

However, at a recent An Bord Pleanála hearing into the ESB’s planned HQ, one fellow of the Royal Institute of Architects of Ireland objected to the demolition of part of the existing 1960s structure which had “become a unique and crucial component of the existing architectural and civic-design character of Lower Fitzwilliam Street and, by implication, the wider Georgian core”.

True to form, the HQ also generated controversy when the proposed scheme, designed by Grafton Architects and O’Mahony Pike, did not comply with the Dublin city development plan which required the Georgian facades of the 16 buildings demolished to be reinstated.

Frank McDonald, former environment editor of The Irish Times, wrote that the last thing An Bord Pleanála should permit was this “overscaled redevelopment scheme that pays no more than lip-service to its context”.

However, city councillors voted in March 2014 to remove the reference to facade reinstatement in the development plan.

The HQ eventually got the green light from the appeals board last September after a three-day oral hearing.

Office space now up for demolition amounts to 36,200sq m (389,653sq ft) and it will be replaced by a 45,770sq m (492,663sq ft) development which will rise to seven storeys at the rear.

There will be 28,121sq m (302,692sq ft) of office space in total and the development will also accommodate 440 bicycle spaces and parking for 110 cars.

Before construction begins, the ESB will move its headquarters staff to more than 9,000sq m (100,000sq ft) of office accommodation at Two Gateway and Three Gateway on East Wall Road in Dublin 3.

This scheme was developed by the Collen Group and offers easy access to the Dart at Clontarf.

Savills and Bannon are believed to have acted for the ESB in securing the relocation and both agents are also expected to jointly market the remaining 15,004sq m (161,500sq ft) of Grade A office space at the new HQ.

However, neither were available to comment.