Re: Re: Arnotts
Ha, no Arnotts is still trading reasonably well. It is still without question the king of Dublin department stores, with the advances Roches were making being pulled back a decade by Debenhams, Clerys remaining a basketcase and more isolated than ever, and Brown Thomas increasingly finding itself priced out of the market. Arnotts has the most flexible business model and the most diverse range of departments to help weather the storm and keep itself relevant to the consumer. It’s just a bit of a headache that there’s a €250 million-plus debt lingering in the background… If there’s one area that needs serious reordering, its their Kitchenware department in the basement which has gone down the tubes in the past couple of years. There’s a big opportunity to be grasped in catering for the loss of that trade from Roches and other smaller stores that have vanished.
Most of us have probably noticed that the €10 million revamp of the existing store, including the removal of the external canopy on Henry Street and reopening of its magnificent original display windows, appears to have come to an abrupt halt since last November. Is this dead in the water too?
It was remarkable how little coverage the Arnotts redevelopment received back in 2007 relative to the Carlton site which has received widespread and sustained attention since its launch. The initial Arnotts scheme, gleefully rubber-stamped by DCC, proposed the most eye-popping over-development imaginable looming over Abbey Street, Liffey Street and Henry Street. This mindless stacking up of arrogant, formless and incoherent boxes merely designed to ‘contain’ XXX ‘units’ of half a million euro apartments, was in addition to a Liberty Hall squeezed onto the corner of Abbey Street and Liffey Street, a canyon of a new street entered from Henry Street (the concept itself an admirable one), and the most outrageous, bombastic recladding and stacking up of setback storeys on Penneys next to the GPO on O’Connell Street – without so much as a whimper from DCC or reference to their own ACA policy. Talk about a far cry from the expert architectural group of late 1916. As usual, it was left to a pitiful number of people to decry the latter dross being sent over from the UK from a so-called ’eminent’ architect of retail design, over whose illustrious work casting so much as a concerned glance, never mind an open critique, yielded a scornful look of pity last practised in Dublin following the opening of the doors to the mob after the Duke of Dorset’s viceregal banquets of the 1730s. The lack of commitment to architectural excellence on this, one of the most important sites in the State, was nothing short of frightening.
It took the Board to turn this scheme from a gratuitously overscaled, if broadly urban-minded development, into a contextual, fully integrated and principled urban scheme. DCC were quite willing to sell out the north inner city lock, stock and barrel for vast development levies and rates. It will be interesting to see how the banks handle their newly acquired assets: namely if they dispose of individual properties, in which case the masterplan collapses, retain strategic sites to eventually develop part of it, or develop the entire plan incrementally – if perhaps scaled down.