There are currently three public-private partnerships (PPPs) in train under the aegis of the Department, one of which is underway and the other two at various pre-contract stages. These projects are the redevelopment of the National Theatre, the redevelopment of the National Concert Hall and the development of a National Conference Centre.
The Government decided, in 2006, to proceed with the redevelopment of the Abbey Theatre by way of a ‘build, finance and maintain' PPP on a site at George's Dock.
The project is being progressed. In particular, Government approval has been secured to hold an international design competition for the new theatre, the specifications of which are being finalised by the Office of Public Works.
National Concert Hall
The Government also decided, in 2006, to redevelop the National Concert Hall by way of a ‘design, build, finance and maintain' PPP, to incorporate a main auditorium with a seating capacity for more than 2,000 patrons. The existing auditorium will be retained as a rehearsal hall and as a mid-scale public performance space, and there will be a third, smaller, flexible hall. It is also envisaged that the Earlsfort Terrace buildings will be re-united with the Iveagh Gardens, facilitating increased public access.
Following a process of competitive dialogue that commenced in September of this year, the short-listed consortia will be invited to submit tenders in July 2009. I remain committed to this redevelopment.
National Conference Centre
In respect of the National Conference Centre, under the PPP agreement already in place, Spencer Dock Convention Centre Dublin Ltd. is required to ‘design, build and finance' the Centre and to operate and maintain it for a period of 25 years, after which the facility will revert to the State. In return, once the construction of the Centre is complete and open for business, the State will pay the Company an annual charge, the maximum total cost of which over the 25 years will be just under €380 million in present-day values.
The development of a National Conference Centre will deliver significant numbers of international conference visitors to Ireland and will generate substantial foreign revenue earnings. It is, therefore, all the more important that this project proceed apace. I am pleased to report that the Centre remains on schedule to open on 1 September 2010.
In conclusion, I want to emphasise my commitment to these projects and I am satisfied that the current challenging national and international economic climate will have limited impact upon the PPP projects currently in train. In part, this is due to the beneficial nature of the PPP process itself, which spreads capital costs for the State over a longer period of time and involves the sharing of risk with the private sector.