Docks tower could rise higher
Frank McDonald, Environment Editor
The Dublin Docklands Development Authority wants to raise the height of the proposed U2 tower to 100 metres, only 20 metres lower than the Spire.
The docklands authority is involved in talks with Mr Liam Carroll, the city's most prolific developer, on the building of the twisting tower of apartments planned for a site at Britain Quay at the mouth of the River Dodder.
A competition for the tower was jointly sponsored in 2003 by the authority and U2, whose new recording studio is to be on top of it. This will replace their old studios in a warehouse on Hanover Quay, which is to be demolished.
The tower was to be 60 metres high but its height would be raised by 40 metres under an amended planning scheme for the Grand Canal Docks area.
Because of the need to maintain its "slenderness ratio", the taller building would also be somewhat bulkier than the original proposal by two firms of architects based in Blackrock, Co Dublin.
This would make it more economical to build.
It will be up to the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, to decide whether to permit the significant increase in height following a public consultation period on the amended scheme, which is expected to to be exhibited in March.
The design for the tower emerged as the winner of an international architectural competition in mid-2003, which attracted more than 500 entries. The docklands authority sees it as a "unique and remarkable landmark".
The name of the original winner was somehow mislaid and the jury subsequently decided to award first place to Burdon Dunne Architects and Craig Henry Architects. One of the principals, Mr Felim Dunne, is a brother-in-law of U2's manager, Mr Paul McGuinness.
It is understood that the Dublin Docklands Development Authority has decided to go for a taller tower on the site, a pivotal one in the area, after getting a sceptical reaction from developers about the economic feasibility of the original proposal.
A professional team of structural engineers, quantity surveyors and mechanical and electrical engineers is being selected to collaborate with the architects on the proposed tower, which would contain about 100 apartments.
The authority intends to give the building section 25 status, which would enable the developer to avail of lucrative tax reliefs to offset the capital cost, one of the reasons it is believed that Mr Carroll is keen to build it.
Mr Carroll's property company, Dunloe Ewart, owns the adjoining Hammond Lane site on Sir John Rogerson's Quay. Dunloe Ewart has planning permission to redevelop the site, including an office tower rising to 100 metres.
However, Mr Carroll is said to have no interest in building the office tower as designed and has replaced the architects with another firm.
The sail-like tower on the Hammond Lane site was designed by Ã“ Muire Smyth, a firm jointly headed by Mr John Smyth, younger brother of the former Dunloe Ewart chief, Mr Noel Smyth. O'Mahony Pike (OMP) has since taken over the Hammond Lane project.
Principally through Zoe Developments Ltd, Mr Carroll has built more apartments in Dublin than any other developer. He designed all his earlier projects himself with the aid of a team of architectural technicians.
Widely criticised as "shoebox" schemes, they included major apartment blocks on Francis Street, Arran Quay, Bridge Street and Bachelors Walk.
He once claimed that architects were "only interested in designing penthouses for fellows with Mercs".
It was only when it came to the Millennium Tower on Charlotte Quay that Zoe hired architects. OMP has since worked for Mr Carroll on a variety of other developments, all of which require more sophistication than he showed in the past.
In November 1997, High Court judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly described him as "a disgrace to the construction industry" and Zoe Developments as a "recidivist criminal" for consistent breaches of health and safety regulations.
The judge had ordered work to cease on the company's Charlotte Quay site after a 24-year- old building worker, James Masterson, was killed and a subsequent inspection by the Health and Safety Authority had noted 13 breaches of health and safety regulations.
Mr Carroll's current projects include such major schemes as Cherrywood - in effect, the creation of a new town in the Carrickmines Valley, off the N11 - and the redevelopment of Loreto Abbey in Rathfarnham.
In the case of U2's tower, it is believed that Mr Carroll would be prepared to build it if the docklands authority agrees to permit a revised scheme for the adjoining Hammond Lane site, which would be sufficiently dense to justify not proceeding with another tower there.
"There is room for only one landmark tower at the end of the quays in Docklands and it has to be the U2 one," said one well-informed source