Dublin’s tallest building proposed for site of former City Arts Centre

Twenty-four-storey office-led scheme to reach 108m and include artists’ studios, workshops and exhibition space in nod to property’s history

Ventaway, a company headed up by developer David Kennan and Winthrop engineering group founder Barry English, is seeking planning permission to develop Dublin’s tallest building on the site of the former City Arts Centre at City Quay.

Should it be approved, the 24-storey structure would rise to 108m (354.33ft), making it just under 10m higher than the 30-storey (98.4m/322.83ft) residential tower developer Joe O’Reilly’s Ruirside Developments intends to build on Parkgate Street.

While the proposed City Arts Centre scheme is office-led with 22,587sq m (243,124sq ft) of office space over 23 of its floors, the site’s history will be recognised with 1,404sq m (15,113sq ft) of artist studios/workshops and exhibition/performance space distributed across the front of the building at its lower-ground, ground and first-floor levels.

In a further nod to the property’s heritage, the former City Arts Centre’s original neon sign has been salvaged by the developer and will be used at the entrance to the new building. The application also provides for a 244sq m (2,626 sq ft) gym at ground-floor level along with 11 car-parking spaces and 424 bicycle spaces.

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Although the provisions of the George’s Quay local area plan (LAP), which applied until July 2022, had limited building heights to between six and nine storeys on the site, Ventaway is seeking permission for a higher structure by referring to the urban development and building heights guidelines for planning authorities issued by former minister for housing Eoghan Murphy in December 2018.

According to these, local authorities may assess permissible building heights on a qualitative basis, rather than by the prescriptive limitations in development plans or local area plans.

In a “tall buildings statement” included as part of its planning application, the developer points to the scale of two other major developments approved in the surrounding area over recent years.

Referring to the respective heights of the Marlet Property Group’s 21-storey College Square office and apartment scheme (82.5m) on Hawkins Street and Ronan Group Real Estate’s 23-storey hotel (88m) on Tara Street, the statement prepared by Urban Strategies says: “Collectively these recent developments suggest an area of Dublin in transition to becoming an important cluster containing a higher-intensity, high-rise business centre for Dublin. That function is supported by a dense network of rail transport infrastructure, making the area one of the most accessible points in the region.”

Kennan’s KC Capital Group secured ownership of the former City Arts Centre in July 2021 in the face of competing bids from a number of parties including Simon Kelly’s RQTwo, Johnny Ronan’s Ronan Group Real Estate , Pat Crean’s Marlet Property Group and US real-estate giant Hines.

While the site had lain dormant for nearly two decades, the combination of its zoning for a broad range of commercial uses and its status as the last remaining waterfront site in the Dublin docklands saw a number of offers that were well in excess of the €35 million price John Swarbrigg of Savills had been guiding when he brought the property to the market in April. KC Capital was advised on its bid by Mark Smyth of MSP Consulting.

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan

Ronald Quinlan is Property Editor of The Irish Times