Draft council plans for the former Gulistan Depot site in Rathmines show a mixed development of a new primary healthcare centre, a community space, and cost-rental and age-friendly housing.
Councillors at a recent meeting of the South East Area Committee largely welcomed the latest version of the plan, although there was some debate over the future tenure mix for homes on the land.
The 2.8 acre Gulistan site lies behind the Swan Shopping Centre and is encircled by Castletown Terrace, Gulistan Cottages and Parker Hill. Right now, it’s got on it a former council depot, a bring centre and a former ESB premises.
Under the draft masterplan, at the north of the site would be the four-storey primary care centre, which would be built first.
Two housing developments would be built after that towards the south of the site: one cost-rental and the other age-friendly housing for senior residents.
An existing stone building could be transformed for a community use, such as artists’ studios, and there would be a “civic plaza”, the plans show.
Long in the Works
“It’s an exciting project,” says Dermot Lacey, a Labour councillor. “At a time of pessimism, it’s an optimistic project.”
It’s taken a long time to get to this point, he says. “We’ve probably been working on it for three years now.”
The entire development would be completed within 36 months of any planning application, according to the draft masterplan.
First up for discussion at the South-East Area Committee’s meeting was whether or not councillors backed the idea of disposing of the northern parcel of the site to the HSE for it to develop the primary care centre.
They agreed to recommend to the full council that they do dispose of it, when it comes up for final vote.
“The care centre will be the anchor, built first,” says Lacey, after the meeting. “We’ve agreed on the overall location now, and the design process is next. I’d say that will move fairly quickly.”
The care centre would operate as a “Network Centre”, says the masterplan, with medical facilities, speech and language, and geriatric care.
Says Anne Feeney, a Fine Gael councillor: “A primary care centre is really badly needed in Rathmines.”
The southern end of the site would be where the age-friendly and cost-rental homes would go, show the draft plans.
“The number of people I meet that say they’d like to stay in the area, but it’s hard to get somewhere suitable” says Labour Party councillor Mary Freehill, who said it is a fantastic opportunity.
“The location is ideal for older people, it’s right close to all amenities and good public transport. It’s the right place for older people to live,” says Freehill, who has been campaigning for years on this.
There’s a great need and a lack of supply of accommodation for older people in Rathmines, says Feeney, the Fine Gael councillor. “We want to be able to present them with the opportunity of moving to more age-friendly accommodation.”
The cost-rental housing would be between three and five storeys, with somewhere between 80 and 90 homes with one or two beds, the plans say.
At the meeting, Independents 4 Change Councillor Pat Dunne said he has one concern. That was about tenure mix, he said.
The plan mentions cost-rental homes, for people just over the income threshold for social housing but who are being squeezed hard in the private rented sector.
But it doesn’t mention social housing, Dunne says, and it doesn’t mention the words “public housing” – and that should be rectified.
“Otherwise, myself and some other councillors would have a difficulty with supporting the disposal,” he said.
“The tenure mix has yet to be determined and it will be determined in accordance with local needs,” said city planner John O’Hara at the meeting.
The cost-rental housing would be developed by an approved housing body and it “has to go out to tender yet”, he said.
O’Hara said the council’s housing department has made it clear that it will keep nomination rights to all the age-friendly homes, and the cost-rental homes, and that some would be for people on the social housing list.
“Is there a reason we can’t come out with a tenure mix now?” said Hazel Chu, a Green Party councillor who is the lord mayor. They could tender once that’s settled, she said.
Lacey suggested that O’Hara take on board those comments and see if he can come up with a formula of words that might work for all.
“I’ll talk to the housing department,” said O’Hara. “But we’ve come so far.”
A Vibrant Village
Rathmines Town Hall, which backs onto the Gulistan site, is also owned by Dublin City Council and currently leased to Rathmines College.
Some councillors said they think it’s a good time for the building to be improved.
It would be a way of rejuvenating the entire area, says Lacey, “and revive that part of Rathmines in a really positive, constructive way”.
The public would be free to walk and cycle through the site from Rathmines Road, from an entrance at the left wall of Rathmines College, to Mountpleasant Avenue, including at night time, says Lacey.
The civic space proposed in the masterplan could be multi-functional, it says, and potentially available to the public for evening meetings or classes.
“We want to make sure they include some access for the community,” says Feeney. “We’d like if they made provision for the community to use it for fun things.”
The public-realm area won’t be fully developed until the accommodation is built, says Feeney.
“I’m very positive for what this is going to provide for Rathmines,” said Feeney. “It’s all part of building Rathmines as a really attractive urban village,” she said.
“It’s really quite exciting. I’m hoping very much that we’ll be proud of it at the end of the day,” says Lacey.
The draft plan still has to be agreed by the full council.
[UPDATED: This article was updated on 15 April at 10.40am to include more comments from another councillor.]