DCC insists it fully backs planned cultural quarter at Parnell Square

by Patrick Finnegan
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Dublin City Council has announced that it is committed to developing a cultural quarter at Parnell Square West, despite growing concerns over the cost of the project.

DCC has been pursuing the development of the quarter since 2012.

The proposed development comprises a new city library and a range of cultural facilities, including a music centre, a design space, an innovation hub, a business library, a 200-seater conference space, education centre, a cafe and an exhibition area.

The proposed development also includes the redevelopment of the Georgian houses at No 20 to No 28 Parnell Square, and a new public plaza created in front of the City Library buildings and Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane.

The Parnell Square Cultural Quarter is a major flagship development for Dublin city, which will play a key role in the regeneration of the north inner city, as well as providing a new focus and destination at the northern end of O’Connell Street.

The project has been undertaken, to date, by the Parnell Square Foundation – a charitable trust set up to raise funds and finance the project – with the support of Dublin City Council and property company, Kennedy Wilson.

The agreed funding model saw a minimum of 55% of the project to be funded by private philanthropy, via the Foundation, with DCC funding a maximum of 45% of the project cost.

To date, €4.8 million has been provided as seed funding by Kennedy Wilson, and a further €1.7 million by the council.

However, DCC has now been advised, following work undertaken by a consultant engaged by the Foundation, that the required private fundraising could take more than three years, and that there is no guarantee it will be successful.

The Foundation’s consultant identified a number of obstacles to a successful private fundraising campaign for the project.

The consultant recommended a number of options, but the one that has the support of the Foundation is to split the project between the library element, which would be funded by the council, and cultural elements, which the Foundation would seek to fund.

DCC’s chief executive, Owen Keegan, described the development as “most disappointing and unwelcome”, in view of the importance of the Parnell Square Cultural Quarter development to the cultural life of the city.

He also reiterated that the council is fully committed to delivering the project in full

The estimated cost of the new library building and associated works is €80m.

The intention would be to complete the work to the Georgian houses and the plaza at a later stage.

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