The €50 million redevelopment of the "asbestos-ridden" Phibsborough shopping centre in Dublin may be "shelved indefinitely" due to a dispute between the developer and Tesco over the design of the project.
If it were abandoned, the failure of the scheme in preparation since 2016 would be a setback for the redevelopment of the area around Dalymount Park, the home ground of Bohemians FC, which adjoins the Phibsborough site.
Developer Mm Capital has accused Tesco of “effectively blocking” the project, saying its “fresh demands” are making it “financially and logistically unfeasible” and could lead to the project being “shelved indefinitely”.
However, Tesco told The Irish Times that it has not made any fresh demands of the developer. It argues that the current design would see it unable to receive deliveries.
Mm Capital purchased the site in 2016, and secured planning permission for a major new development including a 341-bed student accommodation block and a three-fold increase in retail space. A new civic space linking Phibsborough Road to North Circular Road, and including access to Dalymount Park, was included in the planning permission. It is envisaged as a major new centre for the north city suburb, which is currently bisected by two main roads.
"The cost of these demands would render the redevelopment of the centre financially unviable, so the project cannot go ahead," said Derek Poppinga, the former Morgan Stanley banker who is now the managing director of Mm Capital. "As it stands the shopping centre is asbestos-ridden and dilapidated. The reality is that if the centre is not redeveloped now, it will likely fall into further disrepair and that cannot be good for anyone, including Tesco".
The tower at Phibsborough shopping centre, built in the 1960s, is widely considered one of the ugliest buildings in Dublin. It would be “upgraded” with the addition of a metal mesh under Mm Capital’s plans. “We have, or at least had, big plans to create a vibrant public space and civic plaza for the local community. We see this as a unique opportunity to revive this centrally-located site which would in turn contribute in no small part to the regeneration of the wider Phibsborough area,” Mr Poppinga said.
Dan Lambert, commercial director of Bohemians FC, said that the redevelopment of the stadium would take place even without the shopping centre project, but that the club’s preference was for “an integrated design between the two sites, which provides the best outcome for the sites and for community gain”.
Calling on Tesco to give the matter “due thought”, Mr Lambert said that “an integrated solution allows for proper connectivity between the stadium and the Phibsborough centre – it provides us with something Phibsborough has lacked forever”. He said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity”.
Tesco controls two rights-of-way on the site, and without its consent, the development cannot proceed. In a statement, the company said it had made no new demands and was seeking to maintain deliveries for its store. “We have been consistent across all our dealings with Mm Capital over several years and right up to today”.
“The developer has recently escalated this matter, stating that they will commence extending the boundary wall at the front of the store on 28 April, preventing our trucks from gaining access and making deliveries to our store impossible.”
The two parties have agreed to a further meeting in an effort to resolve the matter.