The long-delayed redeveloped Clerys on Dublin’s O’Connell Street, which shut down almost eight years ago, is to be completed within weeks, with shops expected to open before the summer.
The redevelopment has involved the restoration of the historic features of what is one of Europe’s oldest purpose-built department stores, including the colonnaded facade, internal staircases, columns and ceilings, the tea rooms and the Clerys’ clock.
The restored clock was unveiled on Tuesday at a ceremony with Lord Mayor of Dublin Caroline Conroy.
Philip Stokes, horologist and owner of Stokes Clocks restored Clerys’ clock which he said was “very much the heart and the soul of Dublin”. The hands and the roman numerals of the famous clock have been restored with gold leaf while the mechanical system has also been modernised “to keep it going for the next 100 years”, he said.
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The 170-year-old department store was closed suddenly in June 2015 with the loss of more than 460 jobs, shortly after it was bought for €29 million by the Natrium consortium headed by businesswoman Deirdre Foley.
In 2018 it was sold to a division of new York-based real-estate firm Rockefeller Group – Europa Capital, and its local partners, Derek McGrath’s Core Capital and Paddy McKillen jnr’s Oakmount, for a sum understood to be in the region of €63 million.
The old store and an adjoining building, now called the Clerys Quarter, has been undergoing redevelopment since 2019 as a retail, office, bar and restaurant complex, as well as a hotel. Representatives of the store’s owners said the work will be completed “in the coming weeks” with “retailers and hospitality opening early Q2 this year”. A date for the letting of the substantial office elements of the buildings has yet to be confirmed and discussions are ongoing with “a number of office occupiers” a spokeswoman said.
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High-end fashion retailer Flannels, part of the Fraser Group, is to occupy half of the retail space. The remaining 2,787sq m (30,000 sq ft) has been chosen by Swedish fashion giant H&M as the location for its latest and largest store in Dublin city centre.
Paddy McKillen jnr and Matt Ryan’s Press Up Entertainment Group will operate the development’s rooftop bar and restaurant, which will be known as Clerys Rooftop Restaurant.
The shock closure of Clerys in 2015 saw 130 Clerys employees and about 330 people working for concession holders lose their jobs. Natrium at the time said it would develop the store with the project employing more than 1,000 people during the construction phase and a further 2,500 once operating.
Planning permission for the redevelopment was granted by Dublin City Council in December 2016, but was appealed to An Bord Pleanála by Siptu on behalf of the Clerys workers who had received only statutory redundancy payments from the State.
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In March 2017, on the first day of the board’s hearings, Siptu withdrew the appeal after an undisclosed financial settlement was reached with Natrium.
In announcing the start of work in January 2019, the Europa Capital-led group said it hoped to reopen by the end of 2020. In 2021 the date was revised to the first quarter of 2022, and in January of last year, that was pushed out to the end of 2022. It is now due to open “early” in the second quarter of this year.
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Derek McGrath, chief executive of Core Capital, which has been central to the re-development said he felt “privileged” to be instrumental in the restoration of the iconic building and breathing new life into O’Connell Street.
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The restoration of the building has been described as tremendous news for the city by the Lord Mayor. Ms Conroy said an archives exhibition would chart the “exceptional history of this building and its role in the centre of Dublin life for generations”. She also hailed the “skilled craftspeople who have worked so painstakingly to renovate the building.”
The exhibition Clerys: The Archives, detailing the history of the store, which will be open to the public from January 18th and run until January 31st. Entry will be free.