Sale of Richview collapses; Centre for Creativity shelved by Governing Authority

Image Credit: Steven Holl Architects - Concept design for the proposed Centre for Creative Design

According to documents seen by the University Observer, the sale of the Richview building, which was mandated by a Governing Authority vote in 2019, has collapsed.

At a meeting of the Finance, Remuneration and Asset Management Committee on the 21st of November last, members of the committee were informed that “Richview will not be sold by UCD.”

According to the document, the Department of Education, whom UCD intended to sell the building to in order to establish a model school, had decided by last November “not to purchase this property.” 

In an email circulated to staff on the 16th of December 2022, and obtained by the University Observer, Acting President of UCD, Prof. Mark Rodgers, announced that due to a number of “unforeseen circumstances”, the construction of the Centre for Creativity will be paused and reassessed. The Centre was intended to provide a new home for the school of architecture, which is currently based in the Richview building.

The Governing Authority, which consists of 40 professorial, non-professorial and student representatives, voted to sell the Richview building and surrounding lands on the 29th of August 2019, in order to partly fund the upcoming “Gateway project”, of which the Centre for Creativity was a crucial part. The estimated selling cost of the building was between €10 and €15 million.

At the time, “concerns pertaining to the new Gateway project” were cited by members as arguments against the sale of Richview, though the sale was nonetheless ratified by vote. It was noted by the University Observer in 2019 that funding for the new Gateway project was, according to sources, contingent upon the sale of Richview.

The collapse of the sale was confirmed by UCDSU President Molly Greenough, who stated to the University Observer that “to the best of my knowledge, the Richview building isn’t being sold at the moment.”

Greenough continued by remarking that the collapse of the sale was “good news, especially since the Centre for Creativity has been shelved. Students in Richview need not fret - at present, UCD still owns Richview.”

The Centre for Creativity was to be a key part of the Future Campus masterplan, along with an accompanying Centre for Future Learning, which will now progress as a standalone project. At most, students will have only 15% of their classes in this new building.

Further to a meeting on the 15th of December last, at which a report on the university’s capital 
projects was submitted by Acting President Rodgers, the University Management Team (UMT) recommended that the Governing Authority take the decision to not proceed with Future Campus plans as originally envisioned.

A number of factors were cited as being behind the decision, namely the war in Ukraine, the energy crisis, supply chain issues, and general inflationary pressures, which led to tender costs being “very significantly above the pre-tender cost estimates”. Tenders for Future Campus Phase I were issued in December 2021, and returned in September 2022.

In addition to the aforementioned reasons behind the decision, it was noted that “the unique design of the Centre for Creativity presents particular construction challenges, and consequently a disproportionate share of the additional cost”.

The centre, announced in 2018, was intended to provide bespoke facilities for the college of engineering and architecture, close to the existing engineering centre. It was also hoped that the striking design of the building, by New-York based Steven Holl architects, would “announce a signature and memorable entrance to UCD and open a connection to the heart of campus”.

The university’s overarching capital development plan is a highly ambitious scheme, with a number of different projects, of which four are currently at an “advanced stage”, according to the email. These are listed as Science Phase III, The Sports and Amenities Precinct, Future Campus Phase I, and the Student Residences Phase II. 

The shelving of the Centre for Creativity comes as a major blow to the trajectory of the Future Campus Phase I project. As reported by the College Tribune, the Student Residences Phase II project, which would have provided 1200 beds for students, was shelved in 2022, amidst a deepening accommodation crisis.

However, the email concluded that the UMT are “confident that Science Phase III will proceed as scheduled”, noting that inflationary pressures were able to be taken account of prior to tender.

Speaking on the shelving of the Centre, UCDSU President Greenough expressed her agreement with the decision, stating that “I personally thought it was the right decision to make, especially in the current climate we’re in. Obviously, we recently found out that Phase II of residences are being shelved as well, so I think in the midst of an accommodation crisis, if you were to prioritise a nice looking building over student accommodation, I think that would rightfully raise issues amongst stakeholders.”

Going further, Greenough expressed that she would view the Centre for Creativity to be “one of Deeks’ vanity projects,” reflecting that she doesn’t “know if it is necessarily what the university needs at this current place in time,” though asserting that the SU is aware of the school of engineering and architecture’s need for “adequate space and improvements in this area.”

UCDSU Education Officer Martha Ní Riada broadly agreed with Greenough, reasserting that the Centre was “just a vanity project for Deeks, there wasn’t that much usable space for students. It could have been done on a [much] cheaper scale, rather than having these two towers coming out of it that were completely useless.” She recalled that, having spoken with heads of school in engineering, “they do welcome it as well, because they recognise that it’s not the best use of space, that it's far too expensive for what they’d actually get.”

Speaking on the future of UCD’s capital investments plan, Greenough acknowledged that “if so many things are falling through, it's probably worthwhile that they (the UMT) do have a significant look at everything that’s ongoing.”

It was conceded by Prof. Rodgers that the shelving of the Centre will have “implications for target growth in student numbers for the college of engineering and architecture.” In order to mitigate these effects, a group has been commissioned, chaired by Principal of the college of engineering and architecture, Prof. Aoife Ahern, to consider and make recommendations to the UMT capital projects group.

Speaking to the University Observer, Prof. Ahern noted that “It is disappointing that we cannot go ahead with the Centre for Creativity at this time, but the decision to pause the development needs to be taken in context with the wider programme for capital development with the University.” Continuing, she detailed the decision making process, stating that “The impact of inflation on the construction cost of the Future Campus Phase I, led us to reassess the two proposed buildings in this project, and to prioritise the Centre for Future Learning, as this will be a facility used by students throughout the University.”

Prof. Ahern concluded by commenting that it “is too early to list specific recommendations that may be proposed” by the advisory group she now chairs.

UCD’s press office has stated that “All major capital development projects on campus take a significant amount of time from initial planning to completion and final delivery.”
In response to queries about the future of the Richview building, the press office stated that “The timing for the communication to students around capital projects has not yet been set. The University will communicate directly with students when there is progress.”