Work to raze the old Ballymun shopping centre, which has for years blocked completion of the regeneration of the north Dublin suburb, has begun more than 20 years after it was first planned.
The 50-year-old centre, the last remaining vestige of the 1960s high-rise suburb yet to be redeveloped, has been boarded up awaiting demolition for almost two years.
Preliminary works for the its removal started late last year, but the heavy demolition works have now begun, with contractors expected to return the cleared site to Dublin City Council by December. The council will then seek expressions of interest for the redevelopment of a retail and residential complex on the site, which is designated as a future location for an underground metro station.
At least 300 apartments are expected to be built in addition to shopping facilities, which Independent councillor Noeleen Reilly said are badly needed.
“The failure to redevelop the shopping centre site has caused a lot of bad feeling in the area for a long number of years. This site should be the jewel in the crown of Ballymun,” she said.
Ms Reilly said she understood the rationale of clearing the site before bringing it to market “to make it as attractive a development proposal as possible” but she said it was essential that momentum for its redevelopment and the provision of new retail facilities was not lost.
“Seeing the diggers on site now is a really positive step. Obviously financing are going to be tight in the coming months, but it’s vital the redevelopment of this site goes ahead. In my view, it should have been the first thing to happen in the regeneration of Ballymun.”
The redevelopment of the shopping centre, known as the Town Centre, was central to the 1997 Ballymun regeneration plan. In 2000, Treasury Holdings paid more than £6 million for a 53 per cent stake in the site, with the council retaining the remainder. The new complex, which was to be the main shopping facility for the suburb's 18,000 residents, was due to be built in 2005.
However, it was not until 2009 that Treasury secured planning permission for Springcross, a vast €800 million development, which was to include an 11-screen cinema, bowling alley, public library, creche and restaurants, as well as more than 70 shops and offices.
It had intended to begin construction the following year, but the economic crash intervened and the town centre lands became part of Nama's portfolio of loans before any development began. Most retailers in the centre subsequently shut up shop and, in early 2014, it lost Tesco, its anchor tenant.
In May 2014, the council reached agreement with Nama and its receivers to acquire the Treasury stake. Two years later the council sought compulsory purchase orders to gain clear possession of the site.
The final tenants left the shopping centre in summer 2018. However, it was not until the following year that the €1.9 million demolition contract was awarded.