Ongar - from Aga Khan's estate to suburban village with 1,400 homes


A huge housing development with a difference has been created in just a few years on the estate on the Dublin/Meath border that was once the home of a film star and an Arab prince. Kate McMorrow reports.

It was a big muddy field a few short years ago and Clonee residents worried about the survival of leafy Hansfield Road, which adjoins the site. Few could envisage the promised new village of Ongar as a reality.

Now the penultimate phase of this Co Dublin project is on the market with the Hamilton Osborne King agency, bringing almost to a close one of the most ambitious new homes projects in west Dublin for some time.

The location is on the borders of counties Dublin and Meath, about 10 miles from the city along the N3 and two miles from the Blanchardstown Centre. One thousand homes are now occupied, out of 1,400 in the entire scheme.

With 22 different styles of houses and apartments at Ongar, the impression of a vast suburban sprawl has been avoided. Most residents are first-time buyers, with families trading up to detached houses near the entrance gates.

Getting ready to open, the village centre looks as if it has been transported from West Cork, fronts resplendent in tones of pink, orange, green and lilac.

Notices posted in windows point out which trader will be where.There seems to be everything from butcher to candlestick maker (well, almost).

Dunnes stores, which opens next month, has one of the most discreet supermarket shopfronts ever, with parking tucked away to the rear and on the roof. The narrow Main Street winds around to a village square, where café and pub tables will spill onto the pavement next summer.

Built in the grounds of Ongar House, which was once the home of the Aga Khan and film star Rita Hayworth, Ongar's population is now a healthy mix of first-time buyers who rush off to the city each morning and young families enjoying the relative freedom of the outer suburbs.

The families bought large detached houses at a price that wouldn't have paid for a townhouse in Terenure or Clontarf.

Also coming to the Main Street are Domino's Pizza, Paddy Power's bookmakers, Coolers off-licence, L'Avenue Hair and Beauty, a dry cleaners and a newsagents. An Indian restaurant chain and an estate agency are currently negotiating leases. Primacare will run the medical centre, DGM Pharmacies, the chemists. A crèche is planned and a site designated for a primary school.

A café and two village-style pubs will open early next year. The replica Ongar House - the original having been demolished - will re-open as a public house with a restaurant upstairs. Demand has been strong for the retail outlets, most of which are leased from developer Manor Park Homes at around €35 per sq m (€3.25 per sq ft).

In addition to the 17-acre public park adjoining the site, Ongar will have an all-weather pitch and sports centre.

For the houses and apartments, architects Conroy Crowe Kelly came up with an assortment of styles, sizes, textures and roof lines, with arches leading through to formal gardens and good landscaping, including water features.

Journeying to the city in rush hour remains the only drawback, although new access roads and roundabouts have eased access to Blanchardstown shopping centre and Clonsilla rail station.

Commuter parking in the estates near the station has become an issue for Clonsilla residents. However, the 39 bus stops outside the entrance gates of Ongar and a bus corridor is in the pipeline. Anyone working in west Dublin industries such as Hewlett Packard or Intel are particularly well placed to buy into Ongar.

It could have been a disaster - just another sprawling estate on the outskirts of a big city. Instead, Ongar is an example of how crucial it is to address the social and practical needs of residents in outer-suburban housing developments.

Apartments over the shop on new square

Named Ongar Square, the new phase at Ongar is in the centre of the development, on or behind the Main Street and ideal for anyone who enjoys being at the heart of things. A total of 47 units are for sale, with two-bedroom apartments in the majority.

The majority of apartments are above the shops and larger than average , with surface parking behind the building. Thirty two-bed apartments with a balcony or terrace start at €251,950 for 74 sq m (796 sq ft) units. Fifteen of these are over shops and the other half are in a separate block behind the Main Street.

Five over-shop duplex apartments of 112 sq m (1,206 sq ft) with two-bedrooms, a study and very large terrace cost from €265,000. These are terrific units, bettered only by five duplex apartments with three bedrooms and 121 sq m (1,303 sq ft) of living space which start at €275,000.

On show for the first time this weekend are seven two-bedroom plus study townhouses from €289,000 - a good size at 116 sq m (1,249 sq ft).

They have a bright front sittingroom with an open-plan kitchen and diningroom at the end of the hall and an en suite off the main bedroom. Town-sized back gardens are provided.

Still to come and due for release next January are a couple of apartment blocks currently under construction, the launch of which which will mark the final phase at Ongar.

Viewing takes place this weekend.