Arnotts guillotined

NEWS 27 March 2008

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Arnotts          their Chairman, Richd Nesbitt             Carlton Cinema

Arnotts got guillotined yesterday in their bid to bring high-rise shopping to a salivating city centre.

An Bord Pleanala has told them to clip their proposed sixteen- storey tower on the Liffey St/Abbey St corner back to seven storeys; and reduce the height at other points, where they’d chanced their arm with heavyweight embellishment above what even a four year old could see was the natural height for expansion. Arnotts have to go back to the Bord with new drawings providing for these changes before June.

Actually overall Arnotts’ plan isn’t so bad, at least if you think more shopping in general represents progress and have had enough of cheap 1990s ironmongery, sunless internal signposts and basement chipboard. It provides for a useful amount of residential accommodation, public space and a new street – and in a part of the country that is well served by public transport.

But there are luminous problems with the proposal. For example it proposes pivoting (i.e. demolishing and rebuilding) half of that boring old 1890s redbrick protected structure on Henry St (you know the one that you thought WAS Arnotts) around. This is so the venerable retailers can insert their new street and have half of the shop’s main facade there instead, meeting the surviving half at a right angle.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the guillotining is that it indicates An Bord Pleanala is highly unlikely to have any truck with the Liberty-Hall height ski-slope thing Joe (Dundrum) O’Reilly is about to lodge for the former Carlton site on O’Connell St which includes (trading under the name Dr Quirkey’s) the site of a strangely under-investigated illegal gaming arcade.

This slapping down of significant parts of the Arnotts’ proposal, we can be sure, will bring shame to the face of not one of the priss-pot architects who spearhead such schemes but who, like most of the press, seem unaware of what spoilsport Bord Pleanala does, which is to apply the plans that the City Council ignores – cutting out gratuitous height and demolitions.

Nor will red-facedness at being exposed for blatant have-a-goery ever spread up over the architects’ black polos, or out from behind their clever glasses. And if in ten years someone has to knock down what they are now proposing will ere a rosey blush taint their musings. Not for one second. Why do I predict this? Because ten years ago I appeared at an oral hearing in An Bord Pleanala where the usual sniffy architectural self-righteousness led to a permission to build a lot of what Arnotts are now bullishly applying to junk!

Joe O’Reilly, spurred by the audacity of Arnotts, is also proposing to shift the facade of the Carlton Cinema on wheels Northward down O’Connell St (you think I’m joking?) so he too can insert a street that will feed into Henry St. It’s all part of the exciting Louis Vuittonising and permeation of Henry St, which has the highest footfall of any street in Europe.

Maybe one or two of the feet, that currently fall only in multi-storey-car parks all over the South City and would never chance an outing in the terrifying North Inner City, might start falling down Capel St: former furniture Mecca of Ireland, now (due to its dosser shopowners) the Chinese restaurant, dildo and charity-shop epicentre of the Universe. Or even make it to forgotten Ormond Quay where I live, where only the most desperate feet ever fall and where you’d be grateful for anyone even contemplating building something inanely high.

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