The €39 million redevelopment of the Dominick Street flats in Dublin's north inner city is to begin within weeks, more than two years since former minister for housing Simon Coveney "turned the sod" on the project.
The budget for the scheme, which involves the construction of 67 apartments and five townhouses, has seen a €10 million overrun since it was announced by Mr Coveney in June 2016.
The 1960s flat complex was one of five social-housing public-private partnership (PPP) projects that was scrapped a decade ago when a deal between Dublin City Council and developer Bernard McNamara collapsed.
In late 2010, the council lodged plans with An Bord Pleanála to redevelop the complex close to Parnell Street, but a decision on the scheme was delayed until mid-2012 due to concerns about a possible conflict with the cross-city Luas line which now runs in front of the flats site.
Mr Coveney and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe in June 2016 attended a sod-turning event and announced funding of €22 million for the new social-housing apartments with the city council providing an additional €7 million towards ground-floor commercial and community facilities.
Construction was due to start in early autumn 2016, with the residents due to move in early this year, but the work never went ahead. In September 2017, the council said an extra €10 million was needed to rebuild the social housing.
The council at the time said it would need to submit a revised cost/benefit analysis to the Department of Housing seeking an increase in funding from €22 million to €32 million to allow the project to go ahead.
The increase in cost reflected “inflation in construction and other national wage agreements”, it said.
The contract for 72 social homes, ground-floor commercial and community facilities, a basement car park, a community garden, as well as pavement and other landscaping works will cost in the region of €39 million.
Extensive Georgian basements on the site would require “archaeological resolution” prior to excavation, the council said. It was also a requirement of the development that the Luas remains operational during construction.
Tony Flynn of the council's housing department told councillors on Thursday he expected contractors to be on site by the end of this month, or the start of December at the latest.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is due to turn the sod within the next two weeks. Independent councillor Christy Burke said he "resented" Mr Vardkar coming to launch the project, given how long the community had been waiting.
“The Dominick Street regeneration board has seen off five taoisigh, eight ministers for the environment, and 10 lord mayors – that has to be a record,” he said. “The Taoiseach is going to arrive in the next 10 days to turn another sod and I really resent the fact the Taoiseach comes down... the only sod that should be turned is by the construction workers.”