The guest speaker was Much Untertrifaller, the discussion was chaired by Susan Roundtree, and the DCC client was Nicki Matthews. A full list of participants is below.
Many of Dublin’s historic buildings and streets occupy prime city centre locations, but are often vacant, underused or falling into dereliction. Those with a ‘protected structure’ designation are often even more so. How can a model be created that recognises and translates heritage value into economic value, and ensures that their refurbishment is not just economically viable, but may provide excellent investment opportunities for owners and developers?
Protected structures, conservation areas, national monuments etc are designations that provide statutory recognition to the architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or value of a structure or area in Ireland. Such designations are designed to protect such structures or areas against any unauthorised development that could diminish or destroy this interest or value. These designations however may be one of the contributory reasons as to why so many of Dublin’s historic properties remain vacant and underused: conservation restrictions may inhibit their full development potential and the additional costs of restoring or refurbishing such structures may be prohibitive. Other impediments to restoring such structures may include the cost of compliance or upgrades to contemporary building regulation standards or perversely, reduced property taxes and refunds on rates may be available which may encourage property owners to leave their properties (particularly the upper floors) vacant and underused.
The owners of such properties may have little incentive therefore to refurbish these properties, and a protected structure designation is often interpreted as a burden. Indeed, where it is proposed to confer a protected structure designation on a structure, property owners may appeal such proposals for fear that it may reduce the value of their property. Potential purchasers of these properties may also be wary of the hidden refurbishment costs of such structures, with banks similarly being risk-averse and loathe to finance the purchase of these properties, particularly by first-time buyers.
Owners that wish to refurbish these properties may avail of small grants or tax relief that could occasionally be available, however it would appear that a significant proportion of these structures rely on the good will or charity of their owners to foot the bill in ensuring their value survives for future generations. These structures have designations due to their architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or value, but how can we measure their economic value, particularly ones that do not readily fit the easily understood ‘Georgian House Merrion Square’ type category? Is it possible to devise a system where property owners are fully rewarded for maintaining and refurbishing these properties and that developers would actively pursue such properties as excellent investment opportunities? How could a new ‘carrot’ led system to refurbishing protected structures on Aungier St., be used as a model for other parts of the city, and what exactly would this ‘carrot’ led model be? Could new forms of trusts, charities, grants, co-operative housing (e.g. Dublin House), tax exemptions/credits, risk transfers, CSR (corporate social responsibility), crowd-funding, philanthropy etc play a role in this model? Or could other systems be introduced (e.g. similar to BER ratings) that categorise and incentivise certain building types, uses or heritage elements for conservation works? What could be trialled in 2015?
Devise a 2015 pilot project that tests the effectiveness of a ‘carrot’ led incentive system in bringing about the restoration of protected structures on Aungier St.
Please see the group’s key slide plenary session presentation below.
Hollie Leddy- Flood - Visualiser
Much Untertrifaller - Guest Speaker
Nicki Matthews - DCC Client
Susan Roundtree - Chair