The company behind plans for a 19-storey tower at the former Player Wills factory site in Dublin 8 said it had "no intention" of developing a co-living scheme until the retention of the old factory was mooted.
US property group Hines last December submitted plans to An Bord Pleanála for 732 apartments on the land, incorporating the factory building on the South Circular Road. One third of the apartments would be co-living units.
The application was submitted on December 21st, just one day before the de facto ban on co-living developments came into force. Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien in late November announced the ban on new co-living schemes, where shared kitchen and living facilities serve multiple en suite bedrooms. However, the ban was not signed into law until December 22nd.
Dublin City Council is now proposing to add the old cigarette factory to the Record of Protected Structures following the request of former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy in 2017 and a 2018 motion from then Labour councillor Rebecca Moynihan, now a Senator.
The council’s conservation department said the 1935 factory merited protection as a “remarkable” and “high quality” example of its type.
Hines managing director Gary Corrigan said when the company bought the site in December 2018 it had intended to retain only the front of the factory. "Because the council had granted a scheme like that in the past we thought it was a fair assumption the same could happen again," he said.
However, he said it subsequently became clear there was “a push to retain the whole factory”, which made a co-living scheme the only viable option.
“At the beginning of this project we had no intention of looking at co-living, until we were requested to retain the factory,” Mr Corrigan said at a recent public information session on the development.
“That is how we ended up with co-living. It was one of the only uses, if not the only use, that allowed us to retain the factory.”
A co-living development meant the scheme could have an open courtyard “rather than have it as private open space if it was apartments”, he said. “It allowed us to not have to punch holes into the façade as we would have to for offices or standard apartments or hotels, so that was the reason that led us down the road of co-living.
Labour councillor Darragh Moriarty said he did not accept co-living was the only option. "Hines have engaged with the community, I accept that, and they have moved from planning to only retain the front bays to retaining the whole factory, but I do not accept that a last-minute application for co-living is the only solution here."
Hines plans to develop its South Circular Road lands in three phases. The first for 416 homes and a 16-storey apartment block, on the site of the former Bailey Gibson packaging plant which adjoins Player Wills , was granted permission by An Bord Pleanála last September. It is the subject of a judicial review by local residents which is due to take place between April 13th and 16th.
Phase two, which includes plans for the 19-storey tower and the old factory is due for decision by the board later this month.
An application for phase three which includes 403 new homes and another 16-storey block will be submitted in the coming weeks.
Local residents are objecting to the height of all three developments, the lack of homes for sale, as well as the co-living element of the scheme.