Revised plans have gone on display for the historic Evans Home building off John Street in the city, which is to become the new home of the Butler Gallery.
The gallery will house the Tony O' Malley collection which has been bequested by Jane O' Malley on condition that it be properly displayed. The collection is an extremely valuable one, and the Butler Gallery does not have adequate space in its current location.
Planning Permission was approved for a proposed Evans Home redevelopment back in 2011, but funding constraints proved prohibitive. The proposal was recently revisited with plans now in place for a smaller extension than previously envisioned, as well as a lift, stairs, and fully accessible toilets.
The work will also involve the upgrading of the grounds into an art and sculpture garden. It will include steps, railings and a ramp accessing the library car park, with the intention of opening the building up to the city.
“It has a very unique location in the city, but I feel it is hidden away at the moment,” director of services Mary Mulholland told members at the September meeting of Kilkenny County Council.
An archaeological review of the site was completed in 2012, and some degree of conservation work has been ongoing. In November 2014, all the lead from the roof was stolen, which was a major setback and required significant conservation work. Ms Mulholland said there were 'ongoing security issues' on the site.
She added that the Butler Gallery was a key attraction for Kilkenny, and it was important that it could grow. The redesign has also seen the budgetary cost of the redesign significantly reduced and there is some grant aid available to progress it.
Niall McCullough of McCullough Mulvin Architects said the opportunity was there for Evans Home to be a key part of the city.
“It is an important part of Kilkenny's history, but it is almost totally hidden,” he said, adding that the building's interior is currently in poor condition, suffering with issues such as damp and dry rot.
As well as the art collections, the building will include some office space.
Cllr Malcolm Noonan welcomed the update, and thanked the gallery's director.
“I want to commend Anna O' Sullivan for all her work,” he said.
“She has put the Butler Gallery on an international stage – so well done to her and the Board.”
Cllr David Fitzgerald said he felt the updated design was considerably better than the original one, and was more in sympathy. He said it needed to be ensured that the gallery did not become distant from the general public, and that the 'high walls' issue could hopefully be tackled.
His one further concern was over the future of the Carnegie Library building, the future of which needed to be ensured. There was, he said, also the question of funding for the gallery project.
“Have we ongoing costs in to maintain this going forward, or are we co-funders, or will the Butler Gallery take full responsibility?” he asked.
Chief executive Colette Byrne said the council would have a financial commitment of €25,000 on an annual basis. Ms Mulholland agreed the council needed to consider the options going forward for the Carnegie building and its future.
“I will prepare a report on it,” she said.
The Part 8 process will run until December. It is envisaged that construction work could begin in June of next year, and will take about one year to complete.
Plans and particulars of the proposed development are available for inspection during normal office hours at the Planning Department, Kilkenny County Council, County Hall, John Street, Kilkenny and at Carnegie Library, John's Quay, Kilkenny until November 4.
A scale model of Kilkenny City showing the proposed development will be on display at 75/76 John Street Kilkenny, and an information evening will be arranged at County Hall during the consultation period.