UCD plans to nearly double student accommodation on campus, the funding of which will be facilitated partially by a controversial hike in rent prices of over 12% over three years. This will involve the construction of 3,006 bedspaces, in 7 apartment blocks ranging from 5 to 10 storeys, in 12.95 hectares of space within the Belfield campus.
Phase 1 of the project will centre on the construction of 3 new buildings beside Merville and Centra, encompassing a total of 924 beds. The apartment blocks, dubbed ‘Block D’ and ‘Block E’, will house 455 and 409 rooms respectively, and total a cool €100 million. A portion of the beds will be ‘ambulant’, meaning they will be tailored to students with special accessibility needs.
Central to the Phase 1 development is the ‘Fulcrum’ building, a 5-storey building with a 2-storey student centre housing a 290-seat auditorium, restaurant, grocery shop, cafe and food pop-up stores (with the potential for a bar), a gym, a health and wellbeing centre and numerous meeting rooms. The upper floors will house 60 studio apartments, presumably being the most expensive offerings of the new development. The site will include 2,104 bike racks and the provision for 994 designated car parking spaces, many of each being in the basement level. More excitingly for students, there are plans for a bank branch, a dry-cleaners, a new bus stop, a barber shop and a sporting area suitable for basketball, volleyball, netball, handball and rock climbing. In terms of sustainability, the roof of the Fulcrum building is set to be covered in solar panels, and UCD is aiming to mitigate the amount of trees felled, whilst planting new trees, shrubs and hedges.
The developments come at a time where on-campus accommodation is stretched and rising rent prices are forcing students to live further afield from UCD due to the unaffordability of campus life. Though the increase in rooms and communal space is certainly welcome, many within the UCD community are opposed to the manner in which it is being funded, namely through raising rent prices for existing students. This has led to numerous protests (see pages 10 and 11) over the last couple of weeks, as concerned students and staff aim to revoke this decision from the UCD management. Phase 1 should be completed by Summer 2020, with the food and restaurant areas opening in early 2021.
Alex Lohier – Deputy Editor