One of Dublin’s oldest flat complexes, left derelict since it was damaged by fire 18 years ago, has been refurbished for social housing at a cost of €9 million.
Tuath Housing Association has completed work on 22 apartments and houses at Ellis Court, a former Dublin City Council complex on Benburb Street, close to the National Museum at Collins Barracks and Croppies Acre park.
The four-storey complex of two redbrick blocks, constructed in the 1880s, was one of the first purpose-built Dublin Corporation flat complexes.
The council had moved most of the tenants in the early years of the last decade in preparation for a refurbishment programme. However, a few days before Christmas in 2005, a fire broke out in a ground-floor flat causing extensive damage to the building.
Five of the seven remaining residents were taken to hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. One fireman was also taken to hospital after suffering minor burns.
The extent of the damage meant the planned renovation had to be put on hold pending a reassessment of the work required. The complex was boarded up, and some work was done in the preparation of new proposals, but funding was cut back when the recession hit and the block remained vacant.
In 2017 the council approached Tuath to redevelop the complex. The existing flats were sold to the housing association for €2,794 and the redevelopment, which involved an extension to the flat block to provided 19 apartments, along with three houses, was funded by the Department of Housing.
Tuath had hoped to complete the work by the end 2020 at a cost of €6 million. However, the work was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. The delays, and difficulties associated with working on a constrained inner city site and historic buildings, resulted in an increase in costs to €9 million.
Speaking at an event to mark the completion of works, Tuath chief executive Sean O’Connor said despite the difficulties of the development, it was a worthwhile project.
“This building was badly damaged by fire and the truth is it would have been far easier to knock it and start new, but we didn’t. Working on a historic structure like this is never easy or quick but it is worth doing.” It was like a “phoenix rising from the ashes” he said. “The city’s character is built on culture and history and it is vital to preserve it wherever we can. This is what saving heritage is about, it creates living, thriving urban places and that is really significant.”
Dave Dinnigan, director of housing delivery with Dublin City Council, said the council was committed to the reuse of older buildings where possible.
“We’ve lost a lot of buildings over the decades in Dublin so it’s great to see this building brought back into use, particularly as public housing. There would be easier projects to undertake but I think the results of this are fantastic. When we see it brought to fruition like this, it’s probably worth paying for that.”