In an emergency meeting held on August 29th 2019, UCD’s Governing Authority (GA) voted to sell Richview and the surrounding lands to partly fund the upcoming Gateway project. Sources from UCD staff told The University Observer that the board were given approximately one hour to debate and vote on selling the land. Members were given 10 days notice of the emergency meeting. There is currently no representative from the School of Architecture, which is situated in Richview, sitting on Governing Authority, and it is unclear as to whether or not they were consulted about the sale before it was voted on.
UCD’s Governing Authority, comprised of 40 members, is made up of professorial and non professorial UCD staff, county councillors and others elected by the Association of Irish Local Government, the Lord Mayor of Dublin, other UCD figures such as President Andrew Deeks and Registrar Mark Rodgers, and student representatives from the Students’ Union. GA meets to guide the strategic direction of the University and oversee policy.
The day following the emergency GA meeting, August 30th, Project Ireland 2040 announced a €25 million funding allocation for the ‘Future Campus’ project. The ‘Future Campus’ project, which encompasses the Gateway facility will include approximately 22,500m² of new teaching, learning and research facilities, a Centre for Creativity and a Centre for Future Learning. Along with the announcement of funding, UCD confirmed that the use of the funds, alongside the Centre for Creativity and a Centre for Future Learning, would be to “house expanded engineering provision and the UCD School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy.” It is understood that the current classroom space and teaching facilities in Richview will be moved to the new Gateway facility alongside the School of Engineering.
In August 2019, UCD announced that they had “received confirmation of a major donation from a private philanthropist for the Centre for Creativity.” The Gateway project is expected to cost €48 million. The total estimated cost of the ‘Future Campus’ project is €190 million. Sources have told the Observer that the estimated selling cost for Richview is between €10 million to €15 million. It is understood that the rest of the funding will be made available in the form of a loan from the European Investment Bank. It is estimated that the site and buildings would cost a further €10 million to €15 million to refurbish once it has been purchased.
The Gateway Project was announced in early 2018. An 8,000m² landmark building will be situated at the N11 entrance, surrounded by a plaza and reflecting pool. The current entrance is described in the brief for the design competition as being “framed by 1960s traffic engineering, is low key, nondescript and unfriendly to pedestrians and cyclists”. The winning design, by Steven Holl Architects (SHA), is “in part inspired by the Giant’s Causeway”. UCD have said that “the design of the new building will encourage creative collaboration and interaction” and will allow “students, faculty and visitors to peer into maker and classroom spaces through glass walls”.
According to sources within UCD contacted by The University Observer, the plan is to sell the building and land to the Department of Education for the purpose of establishing a model school.
Richview Estate, situated on 17.4 acres of land, was purchased by UCD from the Freemasons of Ireland for £2.1 million in 1980 (around €7.5 million in 2019). A former boarding school for orphan boys owned by the Masonic Order, it has been the centre for the School of Architecture, Planning and Environmental Policy ever since. The money was provided by the Government in exchange for UCD vacating part of the Merrion Street buildings they occupied.
Arguments put forward during the meeting for selling the lands were that the site is awkwardly positioned in relation to the main UCD campus, and the expenses incurred due to the buildings on the site being older structures that are more difficult to maintain and renovate. The arguments that were made against the sale of Richview were that it would be a one-off sale with no future potential for revenue, as well as some concerns pertaining to the new Gateway Project.
While not explicitly stated by anyone at Governing Authority, those from UCD staff who spoke to reporters from The University Observer had the impression that the funding for the new Gateway Project was contingent upon the sale of Richview.
UCD responded for request for comment, stating: “We confirm that a special meeting of the Governing Authority was held on August 29, 2019, at which matters of a commercially sensitive nature were discussed.
“In keeping with the code of practice and procedures of the Governing Authority, the confidentiality of proceedings should be upheld by all members, by those in attendance and by those responsible for preparing documents.”