On the corner of James Street and Echlin Street is a vacant storefront, with upper floors of what from the outside look to be big-windowed apartments.
Reader Davey Donnelly flagged it with us last week when we asked readers to write in with buildings that they’d noticed were empty, and wondered why.
Donnelly says he passes the empty development daily on the way to work. “It’s been empty since I spotted it three years ago,” he said.
It seems that it’s been vacant even longer than that.
According to a recent planning application by housing association Cluid Housing, the block — which was built in the early 2000s — was occupied until 2012, when the bank took over it from the owner.
An October 2012 independent.ie/business/irish/corner-development-on-jamess-street-seeks-19m-28822678.html">piece in the Irish Independent said that the building had recently been refurbished and was in a good condition ready for immediate letting.
But according to the planning documents, it’s been vacant since 2012. In the last months of 2015, Cluid bought the block.
Simon Brooke, head of policy at Cluid, said they’re working on getting the building up to scratch for social housing.
“The reason we are doing building works is because the building doesn’t comply with its original planning permission,” said Brooke. In order to bring it up to standard, they need to remodel the apartments inside, he said.
A planner’s report says that the structure that was built was not consistent with its original planning permission in a number of ways, including the provision of balconies, the wrong number of flats, and the provision of a basement.
The Cluid refurb will, according to the planning application, change the number of apartments from 15 mainly one-bedroom apartments to 12 mainly two-bedroom units.
That’s because two-bedroom units for single parents are sought-after by those on the social housing list, says its application. (The May social-housing list figures from Dublin City Council show 12,633 applicants on the waiting list for one-bed apartments, and 7,446 on the waiting list for two-beds.)
It will also add bicycle and waste bin storage, a new stairwell, and a new smoke shaft.
They are waiting for a final grant of planning permission, hopefully in the next couple of days, said Brooke on Monday. Brooke said he expects work to start in a couple of months.
Some might wonder, peering from the outside in, whether the refurbishment work is necessary or if families should just be moved in straight away. In a property brochure, the homes look spacious and airy and bright but its unclear when those photos were taken.
“I’m sure there will be people who say that and our response would be that we have to comply by the law in relation to renting out apartments. And certainly my view, and my colleagues view, is that the current standards are absolutely correct and it would be absolutely wrong to rent out substandard accommodation,” said Brooke.
“You certainly need to speed things up, but changing the rules to lower the standards is in my view absolutely fatal and just stores up problems for the future,” he said.
Those 12 apartments, when done, will go to people on the social housing list. Timeline-wise, that might be the end of this year or early next year, said Brooke.
Have you noticed empty units that you think should be filled? Let us know and we’ll see what we can find out about them. Send an email to [email protected]