Exciting times ahead for Swords Cultural Quarter 

Communication between Fingal County Council and locals is vital, agree Councillors

by Rose Barrett
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A major milestone in the Swords Cultural Project was reached this week with the publishing of the tender for the new building. The tender notice was greeted positively by Council members across all parties, and the plans include a county library, theatre, gallery, arts spaces, a maker space, and a café.

This is the latest stage in the tender process which has been underway for several months and responses are due to be submitted in February.  A comprehensive evaluation period will follow before the tender is awarded and contracts are signed. It is hoped that construction will commence in Q2 2024 with the new building due to open in 2026.

The necessary enabling works are currently taking place on the site at the junction of North Street and Seatown Road to prepare for the construction phase.

At least 12 houses on the opposite side of Seatown Road will be demolished and will be replaced by 36 new homes in two blocks of 20 and 16 respectively. A further 13 new homes are due to be built on North Street as part of the transformation of this part of Swords.

Mayor of Fingal, Cllr Adrian Henchy, said: “This marks another important step in the Swords Cultural Quarter project. This building with be a centre of knowledge, arts and culture for Swords and Fingal and will have a strong focus on people and experiences which, through the delivery of a modern, dynamic, inspirational and educational programme of events and activities, will become a destination and a focal point for the local community and visitors.”

Cllr Ian Carey (GP) stated it was fantastic to see the project moving forward at pace. 

“It will be a transformative investment in the town bringing a much needed cultural space to the area. “For so long, we have seen this kind of investment in other areas and it is really positive to see Fingal County Council focus on Swords.”

“There will be some traffic issues during construction,” he warned. “Significant construction will be happening on both sides of the road so it seems an extended closure is the only option. I will be encouraging the Council to consult and communicate fully with the residents impacted and in particular,  Fingal Community College.”

Cllr Ann Graves (SF) also welcomed the tender announcement, stating it will offer Swords residents and tourists some great resources.

“For too long the main town in Fingal has been bypassed as a tourist destination” she noted. “Bus parking for bus tours must be encompassed, to encourage tour companies.  This is a huge developmental project and will need a lot of consultation and communication with local residents, particularly those living close to the site. There is a proposal for traffic management plans and a road closure from County Hall to St Colmcille’s Drive.” She also stressed likely traffic disruption over the coming two years which will impact locals and school goers, but also visitors to the town.  

“Consultation and communication will be key going forward,” she said and alluded to public outrage last summer when two medieval wells discovered on the site were dismantled and filled in. “I had asked that they become a feature of the new build but they were removed before there was opportunity for discussion, I will be looking for them to be integrated in some way into the development. 

“But I heartily welcome the investment in Swords and look forward to it progression. This centre will be part of the overall Swords Cultural Quarter and belongs to the people of Swords and wider Fingal – their input is important to me, so I will be encouraging wide consultation and a communication plan to keep people in the loop.”

CE of Fingal County Council, AnnMarie Farrelly, said: “Since the day this project was first mooted our focus has always been on delivery. Going to tender means we are another step closer to construction and delivering a valuable piece of community infrastructure for Swords and Fingal.”

The Swords Cultural Quarter is a 3.89 acre area around the junction of North Street, Seatown Road, Bridge Street and Main Street and the new building, which has been designed by renowned Architects O’Donnell and Tuomey, will include a new 3,000m2 County Library, an art gallery and exhibition space, a café, a civic area, studios and rehearsal rooms, and a Black Box theatre which can cater for audiences of between 165 and 360 depending on the type of event being staged.

The new library – seven times bigger than the existing one – will offer a much larger stock of books, and will include the Local Studies and Archive section, as well as a Maker Space, study space, reading areas, events and meeting rooms. Meanwhile, work on the Carnegie Free Library on North Street, which is being partially funded through a grant from the European Regional Development Fund, is almost finished.

The refurbishment and conservation works included the construction of a new two-storey extension to the side of the building to facilitate new services and improve universal access. The project will provide workspaces and a creative hub with flexibility for a range of community and arts activities including rehearsal and performance uses.

Phase three works at Swords Castle are also ongoing and consist of three elements which are repairs of outstanding historic masonry, a landscaping upgrade, and an electrical upgrade.

The Swords Cultural Quarter project is one of 16 contained in the Sustainable Swords Strategy which is a key part of Fingal’s plan to ensure that the town grows sustainably and develops into a well-designed county capital. It will focus on reversing the historic shift away from Main Street, which commenced in the early 2000s, to facilitate better placemaking and create a more resilient town centre. 

See www.fingal.ie/swordsculturalquarter

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