Demolition of Apollo House and Hawkins House gets go ahead

Dublin buildings to be flattened and sites redeveloped under €50m plan

Approval has been given for the demolition of Apollo House and Hawkins House as part of a new €50 million development for Dublin city centre.

This follows An Bord Pleanála granting planning permission for the demolition and re-development of the two buildings despite opposition from a management firm representing the nearby 66 Corn Exchange apartments and developers, Balark Investments, which own the Screen Cinema and College House buildings.

Over last Christmas and New Year period, Apollo House was occupied by housing activists seeking more radical solutions to Dublin’s accommodation crisis.

Now, Mazars, the receiver appointed by the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) to Cuprum Properties Ltd, has secured planning permission to demolish and redevelop the 1960s office block.

In the permission, Apollo House is to be replaced by an 11 storey commercial office building.

The Office of Public Works (OPW) is the applicant for the redevelopment of the adjacent Hawkins House - which houses the Department of Health and which has long been regarded as one of the capital’s ugliest buildings. The appeals board decision will remove it from the Dublin skyline, replacing it with a new 10 storey building.

The joint plan to build a new office “quarter”, along with shops, restaurants, a public plaza, and a new diagonal pedestrian street, will be one of the largest redevelopment projects in the city centre in recent times.

In giving the projects the go-ahead, An Bord Pleanála said Hawkins House was one of three “key” sites within the area of the Georges Quay Local Area Plan which envisaged the construction of a “mid-town” area of Dublin.

The board said the proposed developments “would not seriously injure the amenities of residential development in the area by reason of overbearing impact, overlooking or overshadowing and would be acceptable in terms of public and private transport and pedestrian safety and convenience”.

In their objection against the redevelopment of Apollo House, the Corn Exchange residents said the new building by way of its scale and design did not represent a worthy replacement to the existing building.

In response to concerns expressed, consultants for Cuprum reduced the height of the new block by omitting one floor from the 12 storey building and reducing its height by 13ft to 146ft.

The consultants Brady Shipman Martin also included an image showing the new Apollo House will be significantly lower in height than Liberty Hall and the Montevetro Google Docks building.

The consultants told the city council “the redevelopment of Apollo House represents a significant opportunity in the revitalisation of not only this city block, but a strategic positive contribution in the urban environment of the city centre”.

In their oppositionto the plan, Balark said the Hawkins House and Apollo House sites should be redeveloped together. The company argued the piece-meal approach to the redevelopment of the city block had resulted in a number of inefficiencies and challenges.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times