City council fund residents’ association to buy former hotel for use as community centre

Galway City Council has agreed to give what councillor Frank Fahy described as “a measly €200,000” towards turning a hotel in Doughiska into a community centre.

At Monday’s city council meeting, councillors agreed in principle to provide funding to Doughiska Residents’ Association to help purchase a hotel building in the area.

The subject of funding was brought before the council as the residents’ had been provided with an opportunity to purchase the “distressed asset” at a knockdown price, but for a limited period of time.

The council agreed to give €200,000 to the group dependent on other suggested funding sources also committing to the project.

The purchase of the former Amber House Hotel will cost the DRA €510,000 - almost a tenth of what it was previously sold for, according to Cllr Fahy.

The building has been “vacant for two years and has been identified as suiting the needs of the Doughiska Residents’ Association” said council director of services Tom Connell.

The hotel was valued last year at €1.2 million and he group has extensive plans to redevelop it into a community centre with meeting rooms, educational facilities, changing rooms, and a church.

In order to secure the building, the DRA is relying on two other sources of funding. A private investor has offered €100,000 with legal documents in place confirming the commitment, while negotiations are ongoing with the Roman Catholic Diocese for the remaining €300,000.

In order to secure money from the diocese it is hoped the Good Shepherd Parish will lease space in the centre and relocate from Castlegar GAA. It is unclear, however, whether the funding will be made available in the form of a grant or loan as it was pointed out by councillors that the diocese is not known to give grants to groups outside of the Catholic Church.

In order to fund the running of the building it is hoped that the centre will also be able to lease space to the VEC for educational purposes.

Chairperson of the residents’ association Dan Hurley said he is confident that if the group can secure the building it will then attract funds estimated at €200,000 towards its renovation.

Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely was doubtful over the project, questioned the plan, and claimed there was a lack of concrete facts and figures. He was also unconvinced by Mr Hurley using the words like “hoping, and “trying”, saying: “I think you would be lucky to get that work done for €200,000”.

While councillors were concerned about the group’s ability to confirm all funding, they agreed the facility would provide good value to the council, and commended the residents’ association on its efforts.

Councillors agreed in principle to fund the group so long as it secured funding from other sources. A sum of €50,000 will now be paid to the group each year for the next four years.

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