Try it for size: could you live here?

A mock-up two-bed apartment built in Cherrywood, Co Dublin, only slightly exceeds Alan Kelly’s revised minimum design guidelines


What is claimed to be the first apartment built under the controversial statutory design guidelines introduced by former environment minister Alan Kelly has been installed in the marketing suite for Cherrywood, in south Dublin.

Hines, the US investment company that bought 400 acres of land in the designated strategic development zone (SDZ) for €282 million in December 2014, wants to demonstrate that the living space shown in its mock-up is acceptable for everyday living.

“Personally, I’d be more than happy to put apartments like this on the market, and I think people will like them,” says architect and developer Brian Moran, who now runs Texas-based Hines’s operations in Ireland as managing director.

The mock-up is actually more generous than Kelly’s specifications for a two-bedroom apartment, with 81sq m of space (as opposed to 73sq m in the guidelines) and it also has higher ceilings in the main rooms (2.7m compared to 2.4 m).

A tall entrance door leads into the show apartment, which will be opened to the public in October. Inside, the most remarkable difference from units produced in the past is that there is no corridor. “We got rid of corridors,” Moran says. “We went to the BRE [Building Research Establishment] in England and ran a whole series of tests showing that the installation of a sprinkler system meant we could eliminate corridors altogether. It also reflects how we live today.”

The smart fitted kitchen comes first, on the end wall, with an island unit that doubles as an eating area, and then the livingroom, looking out through glazed doors to the wide 7sq m balcony fronted by a “screen grab view” taken by a drone.

The two bedrooms are located on either side of the livingroom, so people sharing the apartment can have more privacy rather than being separated by wafer-thin partitions. Each has its own en suite bathroom as well as walk-in storage totalling 6sq m.

The apartment is mechanically ventilated, so there is no need to open windows in winter to get fresh air; it comes in automatically to be heated and then distributed throughout. High insulation also reduces heating bills to €400 a year.

Of the 1,300 residential units being planned by Hines for the “town centre” area of Cherrywood, 715 will be two- bedroom apartments just like this mock-up. About 10 per cent will be studios of 40 sq m – the actual size specified by Kelly’s guidelines.

Studios will be in demand, Moran believes, because renters will also have a range of amenities in their building, such as gyms and soundproof party rooms, which will come with kitchenettes. “That’s all very standard now in the US,” he says.

After acquiring the bulk of Cherrywood SDZ, Hines hired both local and international architects to do “tissue studies” of each plot of land to determine the best design approach. They include Urban Agency, Levitt Bernstein and Munoz Albin. “Diversity in architecture is the key,” Moran says. Munoz Albin, for example, is a US specialist in the design of multi-family buildings for rent; the vast bulk of what Hines plans to build at Cherrywood will be offered for rental rather than purchase.

“Essentially, we’ll be building them on behalf of pension funds with a 20-year investment horizon,” he explains. “Given the current level of demand for housing in Dublin, we’ll be able to rent 50 units a month instead of selling five a month.”

With “fast-track” planning under the SDZ designation, Hines says construction will start next month on the first phase of its extensive plan for the area, which is shown on a large topographical scale model in the Cherrywood marketing suite.

“So much of the infrastructure is already in place – Luas, roads, gas, electricity,” Moran says. Even so, Hines will shortly submit plans for a further 5.5km of roads to facilitate rapid development. The master plan also includes three major parks.

The proposed shopping centre has been inspired by Liverpool One, a much-lauded retail precinct that is more open than most. It is being designed by London-based Dunnett Craven Architects. With 1,300 apartments planned for the town centre area alone, Hines has hired IMB Asymetria – “the number one residential architects in Poland”, Moran says – to design one of the blocks. Others will be by Dublin-based HJL, OMP and McCullough Mulvin.

Cherrywood is a surreal place at present, with so little of the SDZ actually developed so far. Hines however is confident of securing permission from Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council for its plans next spring, so this landscape is likely to change quite soon.

Guidelines: Sizing up apartment standards

Late last year under new standards introduced by then minister for environment Alan Kelly – which took immediate effect – the minimum size of one-bed apartments was reduced from 55sq m to 45sq m, two-bed apartments from 90sq m to 73sq m and three-bed apartments from 100sq m to 90sq m.

The updated 2015 apartment guidelines require a majority of apartments in all schemes to be larger than the national minimum standard (ie more than 50 per cent of apartments must be at least 10 per cent larger than minimum).

The updated guidelines were designed to incentivise building, and also to create greater choice and affordability for young buyers.

The mock-up showhouse here is for a rental unit type in the proposed new Cherrywood Town Centre being developed by Hines Ireland. Hines own about 60 per cent (400 acres) of the SDZ (strategic development zone) approved lands at Cherry- wood, including Cherrywood Business Park.

The ambitious town centre planning application is due for submission later this year and the apartments will be incorporated within that proposal. Construction is envisaged to begin mid-2017 with first apartments coming to market on a phased basis in 2018-2019.

Current planning permission is focused around major new parks that will service the town and the road infrastructure around it.

Planning permission was recently granted for the construction of Tully Park (similar in size to St Stephen’s Green) and Beckett Park (similar in size to Merrion Square). Permission was also granted for the roads infrastructure. An additional permission is expected in the coming weeks sanctioning the first phase of Ticknock Park which, when fully completed, will be equivalent in size to Marlay Park.

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