New €18m ‘water activity hub’ planned for Dublin’s Docklands – The Irish Times

A Dublin Docklands building that was once part of plans to build a €25million whitewater rafting center is to be refurbished by Dublin City Council as a €18million “water activity centre”.

The former Dublin Docklands Development Authority (DDDA) office at Custom House Quay, near the disused George’s Dock site, will be demolished and replaced with two new buildings, one of which will operate as a water activities centre, the council said, while the others will serve as new offices for the Docklands Division of the Council.

The activity center will include a changing room, reception and ticketing office, staff lounge and equipment storage and will enable the Council’s Department of Sport and Recreational Services to “offer an expanded program of water-based activities based on the River Liffey, working in close collaboration with the Islandbridge Municipal Rowing Centre”.

The existing building, constructed in the 1980s, has been largely vacant for several years and is “in rapid decay,” the council said. “It is no longer habitable and cannot be rehabilitated at a reasonable cost.”

The provision of a new water sports facility in Docklands will provide direct access to water activities on the River Liffey with “a range of programs geared towards different groups” with “fees which are consistent across other City Council sports facilities”, the council said.

The new plan doesn’t include George’s Dock and the controversial whitewater rafting program that was canceled in 2021.

Under this plan, the activity center building was to provide a similar support function for the white water rafting complex, which would have included a water polo and kayak pool and a Dublin Fire Brigade water rescue training facility.

Concerns were raised at Monday night’s council meeting that local council members, who had raised concerns about the potential reintroduction of the whitewater system, had been bypassed in decision-making on the development.

Council executive director Derek Kelly said it was “unlikely” that local councils would make a decision on the new plan. “This would result in the Council having to abandon the current procurement process as we would not be able to award a contract,” he said. “This could result in a loss of market confidence in community projects in the Docklands as we previously canceled a bidding process for the whitewater rafting project.”

Several local councillors, including Labor’s Joe Costello and Independent’s Christy Burke, said it was an “insult” to councilors, while Independent Nial Ring said it was “tantamount to blackmail”. Cllr Costello called for a vote to postpone the decision, but it was defeated by a vote of 44 to 11.

Council vice chairman Richard Shakespeare assured councilors: “The whitewater rafting proposal is dead, pardon the pun”.

The whitewater program was originally presented to councilors in January 2019 at an expected cost of €12 million. By December this year, when it was approved by councillors, the cost had risen to €23 million. When the council solicited expressions of interest to build the project in January 2021, it had reached the €25 million mark. The plans were then abandoned.

The council last year proposed a public bathing beach and training center for lifeguards which would cost George’s Dock, costing at least €25m. However, that is not part of the activity center proposal, which the council said will cost €18 million, of which €7 million will be provided by the National Transport Authority as part of BusConnects. The municipality’s share of the costs is financed from the development fees. New €18m ‘water activity hub’ planned for Dublin’s Docklands – The Irish Times

Dais Johnston

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