DUBLIN (Reuters Life!) - A “City of the Dead,” indoor soccer pitches and a “buy one, get two” offer for new homes are just some of the ideas for reviving Ireland’s construction sector at a Dublin exhibition.
The bursting of a decade-long property bubble two years ago plunged the former Celtic Tiger into its worst recession on record, leaving unsold or unfinished buildings scattered across the country and bringing exposed banks close to collapse.
The theme of the week-long exhibition “Shadowland — Looking out from under the shadow of NAMA,” refers to the National Asset Management Agency, Ireland’s 54 billion euro ($78 billion) “bad bank” scheme to cleanse banks of non-performing and risky commercial property loans.
“The leftovers of the boom time take the form of half-finished projects, ‘ghost’ housing estates and land zoned for development in inappropriate locations nationwide,” said Michelle Fagan, partner with FKL architects which organized the exhibition that runs until December 18.
“Decisions must be made regarding the future of these sites.”
NAMA will potentially become the biggest landowner in Ireland and could even end up with a larger asset portfolio than many of the biggest listed property firms in the world.
The most depressed parts of the Irish housing market have already earned the nickname “NAMA-land.”
One of FKL’s ideas is to utilize surplus land as cemeteries to reduce what they say is a shortage of burial spaces.
“Unfinished estates in inappropriate locations for housing could be turned into ‘Cities Of The Dead’ on a European model with the unfinished houses reused as crematoria and chapels and the remains housed in semi-detached tombs,” FKL said.
Another proposal for the northwestern county of Donegal, suggests that a bleak, abandoned hotel could be given to the local community for use as a performance venue, an art gallery or a boat depot, according to MacGabhann Architects, another studio which contributed to the project.
A scrappage scheme more frequently used for cars was also mooted in which people could swap their bungalows in remote locations for unsold houses in nearby towns and the “liberated” sites converted to farmland or forests.
“We need to consider buildings as our homes, not necessarily as a commodity,” said Roisin Heneghan, of heneghan.peng.architects (www.hparc.com), a third exhibitor.
Not everyone is convinced NAMA’s 54 billion euro gamble would pay off.
“Under NAMA, the same people who created the issues in the property sector will be charged with resolving them,” Fagan said.
Editing by Andras Gergely and Paul Casciato