The regeneration of one of Dublin’s oldest flat complexes is to begin this month, almost eight years after it was sanctioned by the Department of Housing, and 12 years since the complex was vacated.
The Peter McVerry Trust is to refurbish the 100-year-old flat complex at 181-187 Townsend Street, near College Green, to provide 20 permanent homes for homeless adults.
The charity received initial approval in 2015 to redevelop the Dublin City Council flat complex, which at that point had been vacant for four years. The project has since been beset by delays and its original budget has more than doubled from €1.7 million to €3.6 million.
The flats were built in about 1920, by the then Dublin Corporation, in three storeys above ground-floor shops and were some of the earliest social homes in the city.
They remained in use continuously until the end of the century but had deteriorated significantly and problems with the roof and plumbing had developed. About the year 2000, the council stopped allocating flats in the block and began moving its mostly elderly residents to new accommodation. The last resident left in 2011.
The council never developed firm plans for the building, although it did consider selling to developers and using the money to fund other social housing in the area.
The Peter McVerry Trust identified the vacant building as having potential for renewal and secured initial social housing approval under the State’s Capital Assistance Scheme (Cas) in 2015. While the approval process was progressing, the charity submitted a planning application to the council for the refurbishment work in 2017, and at the time said it hoped the flats would be ready for tenants by 2019.
Planning permission for the refurbishment of 18 one-bed flats above the ground floor shops was granted in January 2018. In October 2018 the department of housing issued “stage three” approval for the scheme, allowing the charity to seek bids from builders for the work. The trust prepared to issue tender documents in December 2018 with the anticipation of selecting a builder to be approved by the department by the end of April 2019.
In tandem with this process, the council was preparing documents for a 31-year lease of the flats to the trust, which required the sanction of city councillors. The council, which owned the entire building, was also in negotiations with the tenants of the ground-floor shops in relation to the work. During the course of 2019 and 2020, it emerged that the remaining commercial tenants, including a barber’s shop and a restaurant, were willing to surrender their leases. The council suggested to the trust that these units should be incorporated into the development to provide 20 flats instead of 18.
However, this meant the trust had to make a fresh planning application for the extra apartments. This application was made in April 2020 and granted in October of that year. Councillors in December 2020 voted to approve the lease of the building to the trust, allowing the development to go ahead.
The Covid-19 pandemic caused delays in sourcing a builder for the scheme, and the Trust said it had to go through the tender process twice before it secured a contractor. It also had to finalise terms with the Office of Public Works in relation to boundaries with the neighbouring Pearse Street Garda station, before it could secure a start date for works.
The project has also had a substantial increase in costs. In 2017 the trust had secured €1.7 million in State funding for the work which has now increased to €3.6 million. While this is largely due to construction price inflation, new energy performance standards came into effect since the first planning application was approved, requiring a redesign of the mechanical and electrical elements of the scheme and an associated increase in costs, said the trust.
Work on the 20 flats is scheduled to begin on January 16th and is scheduled for completion in 15 months.