Our Lady's Hermitage pictured following the fire in 2018.

Marist housing scheme application could be lodged later this year

Four years on from a fire at Our Lady's Hermitage building on the grounds of the Marist College, it looks like 2022 could herald the start of a new housing use for the historic premises.

Tuath, the housing agency, is moving forward with what it previously described as a “compatible living apartment scheme” on the grounds, which could see a planning application lodged later this year for 55 new units.

Asked for an update on the €6 million project this week, almost four years to the day since the fire, a spokesperson said: “The Stage one Capital Assistance Scheme (CAS) application is with the department for review since mid-February. Pending the successful outcome of this, we will be moving towards the submission of a planning application late quarter two”.

Back in February of 2020, Tuath's ambitious plans to convert the fire-damaged building on the grounds of Athlone's Marist College into a residential scheme first emerged when the housing agency published a tender seeking design consultancy services for the project for what a spokesperson said at that stage would be circa 55 mainly two-bedroom apartments between the existing building and a newly constructed building.

A design team was subsequently appointed for the project earmarked for the elderly or those with similar needs, which will involve the conversion of the existing Our Lady's Hermitage building which was damaged in a major fire in 2018 into housing units along with a new premises.

The tender documents also revealed that a communal outdoor area and a day services centre would be provided with a separate entrance from the neighbouring secondary school.

The old school building, known as Our Lady's Hermitage, is described in the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH) as a “detached three-storey over-basement house, built circa 1810”.

The former dwelling was converted to a secondary school circa 1900 when a three-storey Gothic-style basement extension was added. The latest renovation of the building was in 1945.

While the protected structure has had a number of uses in the years since then, it had been vacant for a number of years before it was damaged by a major fire in March of 2018.

Following that, the Marist Brothers applied for permission to repair the damage caused to the building, including the fitting of new timber windows and reconstruction of floors, roof and walls of the historic premises.