The owners of Dún Laoghaire Shopping Centre applied just before Christmas for permission to redesign the outside of their building and re-arrange the shop-floors inside.
This is in preparation for the arrival of two large new retailers to the centre. The latest rumour is that one of these will be TK Maxx. This week I copied the plans and in this post I’ll show you what the owners intend to do.
You can make a submission on these plans to the council planning office or let me know in the comments below what you think.
Changes to the exterior
Clearly Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre is one of the ugliest buildings ever constructed in the county so any kind of reconstructive surgery will be given the benefit of the doubt – the more radical, the better. Marine Road has been particularly blighted not just by the shopping centre but also by the brutalist St Michael’s Church on the opposite side. The fashion of the period left us with two major public structures in our town centre that resemble a prison and an abattoir.
So above you can see the start of the planned changes to the side along Marine Road. Eason’s newsagent is on the left of this photo as we look up the hill of Marine Road towards George’s Street.
This is the corner of the Shopping Centre where Farrell’s pub is located. The plan is that this pub and the neighbouring shops on the third and second floor would be replaced by one large retailer.
Above, you can see that the owners plan to add more glazing to the Marine Road elevation, covering some of the vast brown brick expanses that grace its 1970s facade. (Click on any of these images for a close up)
The facade along George’s Street will also have more glazing attached and a higher entrance porch where the newspaper sellers have their stall.
Changes to the interior
Following a recent refit, the interior of the shopping centre really doesn’t look too bad.
The problem is the incomplete range of shops, and the lack of an anchor tenant or a department store. I counted 35 vacant units and everyone expects that the owners were clearing out tenants in preparation for the arrival of some new mega-shop.
The proposal is to place a new anchor tenant in a space created by merging a number of units on Level 3 and linked with other merged units on Level 2. These would open onto George’s Street, beside AIB. A second, medium-sized retailer will be located on levels 2 and 3 at the North end of Marine Road. Here are the proposed floor plans
Will it work?
It may not go far enough. I’d certainly prefer if the facades could be entirely re-skinned or, failing that, at least if the bricks could be repainted to remove any trace of their awful brown hideousness.
If the new retailers can fill the gaps in Dún Laoghaire’s retail offering, then there is the potential to bring some shopping life back to the town.
On the other hand, the town currently seems oversupplied with a selection of shops with weak trade and the addition of even more units aiming at the lower end of the market may not be the best option.
When I saw the planning application on the wall of the shopping centre, I had hoped that the owner had given up retailing and was planning to demolish the entire block and replace it with a large number of apartments.
The shopping centre had its heyday from the mid 1970s to the mid 1990s, when it served as a social as well as a commercial hub.This was before the development of the Dundrum and Carrickmines centres.
Locals, including me, felt nostalgic and proud when the 1993 movie ‘The Snapper’ used the shopping centre as a location.
A short history
The Shopping Centre opened in 1976, replacing a large number of shops on Marine Road and Georges Street, and demolishing a beautiful Regency row: Gresham Terrace.
Gresham Terrace, next to the Royal Marine Hotel
Gresham Terrace was replaced with the barred windows of a multi-storey parking lot, so that the cars could take in the commanding view of Dublin Bay while their owners went shopping.
Below you can see the before and after photos of the corner of Gresham Terrace and Marine Road. I guess sometimes a society takes a step backwards and this is one such example.
The corner of Marine Road and George’s Street was also transformed:
Notice that Ulster Bank remained in the same corner position after the shopping centre was constructed.
A photo from the 19th century of the same location:
Why now and what happens next?
Until 2014, vacant commercial properties could obtain a full rates refund in Dún Laoghaire. This meant that a landlord could leave a shop empty for years, while contributing nothing to the town. In the 2015 council budget, I voted with other councillors to charge 25% of the normal commercial rates on vacant properties. This meant that the owners of the shopping centre were faced with a large and ongoing charge so long as they left 35 units vacant. Agents for the owners wrote to me to complain that they would have to reduce the rents. So they now had an extra incentive to get the units rented out.
There is a period of five weeks for the public to make submissions on this planning application. I am going to support the internal reconfiguration but I will ask for a more ambitious redesign of the exterior.
The planning reference number for this application is D15A/0846
- Several black and white photos in this post were previously posted by Geraldine Manley and Tom Conlon in the “Dun Laoghaire Past and Present” Facebook group.
- The shopping centre is owned by a private, unlimited Irish company, Coltard. The directors of Coltard are Joseph Higgins and John Ryan. The property is managed by Murphy Mulhall