The Liberties area is undergoing unprecedented levels of development, none more so than the area around Newmarket Square in Dublin 8. Cranes sweep the skyline, there’s the constant churn of Roadstone cement mixers and a procession of yellow hard hats is a recurring sight around the adjoining streets.
The former Eircom building and old Mill Street studios will open as a 400-bedroom ‘luxury’ student accommodation complex this autumn. US hotel giant Marriot International will open Aloft, a 200 room hotel, on the site behind the old Tenters Pub in the Blackpitts. The Maldron group are building a hotel on Kevin Street which is due for completion at the end of 2018 with a ‘grain and grill’ restaurant planned for the ground floor and there are plans to demolish the Tivoli Theatre to make way for an Aparthotel.
South Studios closes this month, after a decade in existence, to make way for “24 unique apartments” and “a larger mixed use scheme comprising of a Restaurant, Cafe & Deli, and Gym” as well as the transformation of The Old Distillery Building, into “Modern Grade A office accommodation, which will hopefully attract similar tenants akin to AirbnB” by Oakmount Developments.
The Creedon Group who own a number of properties on Newmarket Square have restored No. 10 Mill Street, the sole remaining ‘Dutch Billy’ style building in the city centre, to its original 1720 appearance. There are also plans afoot by Dublin City Council to redevelop Newmarket Square. Property prices are shooting up and there’s an air of excitement levelled with some concern as to what the area will become.
With great possibility comes the fears of the impact of gentrification for existing residents and businesses. It’s a new jigsaw but will everyone fit into it? We spoke to a number of parties who will impact upon, and be impacted by, these changes.
Mary Fields has been living on Chambers Street, just off Newmarket Square, since 1974.
“The changes don’t really affect me. It’s home, there’s no trouble here. I’d like to see the shop and pub on our street reopen. (Teelings Distillery have apparently bought The Ardee pub which Mary references). The distillery has spruced up the place. It’s changing for the better. I won’t be selling my house so rising house prices won’t affect me.
I wish they’d hurry up with that park (Weaver) up there…The Food Co-op is not my cup of tea really. It’s handy to know it’s there but I’m used to going to Meath Street.”
Lois Kapilla is the managing editor of The Dublin Inquirer which fastidiously chronicles developments in the city.
“I think the push towards pedestrianisation and removal of car parking spaces in the area are welcome. There needs to be more debate about gentrification and how to moderate the effects. Now is the time to debate it.
Of course you want the city to be a nicer place but the more desirable it is, the more expensive it will be to live there. I like to think we help people to understand how decisions affecting the city are made and when they are made. Dublin City Council needs to do more outreach and have better communications.
“A lot of these issues can be traced back to policy on a national level. It comes back to the question of having a directly elected Mayor with the powers to respond more to what people in the city want. It would be a shame if we ended up with chain stores in an area like this which has so much character.”
Tim Cookson is the operations manager of Dublin Food Co-op since 1997. It has been resident on Newmarket since 2007.
“We were in Pearse Street for about 10 years in the St Andrew’s Centre before we moved here in 2007. Our mission is to provide vegetarian whole foods to our members. It’s ended up a bit more complicated than that. The plan was always that this building would be temporary. That went south when the crash happened but we’re back too where we started in a way.
Is there a Co-op view on the developments? Probably not. The potential is amazing. We feel part of how this has come to pass. To bring retail into the square was a step into the dark for us. We feel we’ve played a part.
Things will change. Everything is going to be redeveloped. There are many bits to this equation. We would love to stay in this area and feel part of the community. But can we afford to? We can control what is ours but you can’t control property prices. What we bring is a real aspect. Real Dublin people doing real things. If that was lost in the development, it would be a negative. It cannot just be about tourists. What we do is a real thing and it adds something to the mix.
‘The Co-op is a microcosm. There are people on both fringes and all the points in between. Beyond the end of the year, we don’t know what’s going to happen. We may end up here for some more years. I would expect we will be but there’s no guarantee. We need to seek security for ourselves, We’re in flux like everybody else. The future is uncertain. We’re in the game though which is great.”
James McMahon (Bimbo) has been working in the Lynx Garage on the square for ten years.
“I notice a few things changing. It’s better. You have the distillery and student apartments. Teelings want to buy all around here. They bought the pub in the corner. There’s no shops around here. It would be nice to change it. Over a 1000 taxis come here on a Friday and Saturday. I don’t think he (the owner of Lynx) wants to sell. You have 60 or 70 staff here and aerials on the roof. It’ll be better for the younger kids…The rest of the people wouldn’t have any of that (the likes of Starbucks). I wouldn’t mind.”
Sean Breithaupt and Yvette Monahan set up South Studios in 2007. It has played host to countless creatives, shoots, agencies and events in the past decade. It closes its doors this month.
“We were working from home at the time and remember thinking it would be great to have a space to share with other people from other disciplines. We met with Cliona (O’Flaherty) and walked up the stairs and thought this space is amazing. It was the magic of climbing those stairs and the opening the doors.
Then the recession came and we started using downstairs which had been a furniture warehouse.
We spoke to the landlord and started a business where people could come in and rent it on a day-today basis.
When we took it on initially it was a year lease and it’s been rolling ever since. We had this great relationship with our landlord Alan who was into the concept. We were managing an old building and preventing the broken windows effect. People came here through word of mouth usually.
Alan was into the idea of young people working together and felt there was something interesting happening here. He really liked the idea and was supportive. It was a really symbiotic relationship but we knew the time was short and it could end at any stage. We knew our days were numbered. It does seem like the right time to end it but it is still sad. It was a great decade and energy for the area.
The current developments are quite exciting. Some areas such as behind The Tenters has been wasteland for the last decade. The concern is the studios are pushed out and replaced by generic apartments. Young people with energy will always find spaces and then businesses will follow.
There was really a community between people around here, a natural understanding. It’s nice to have had so many people come here and use the building. Spaces such as this which are big, open and with character are really difficult to find nowadays.
Whenever people rented South, the thing they loved the most was the fact that there was all these people around doing different things whether that was a casting on the top floor or a Le Cool event in the Laundry room. They loved seeing the diversity and atmosphere created by people.”
Maxime Laroussi is a co-founder of Urban Agency who won the tender for proposals for the redevelopment of Newmarket Square.
“For the process we tried to integrate as many elements as possible after the public hearings.
Once we had a design we spoke to each department in the council from archaeology to traffic to planning and people looking after Dublin Bikes.
Through negotiation. we have managed to only keep around 25 car parking spaces. to get rid of the road coming through the square.
We want it programmed it in a way that doesn’t erase what was there before but complements elements such as the fruit and veg market, the coop and flea market. Those ingredients dictated the proposal rather than the other way around. We wanted to preserve that because it was the beating heart of the area and try to give it a better platform to develop further even.
The proposal has been put forward. Now we have moved into part eight which is the granting of planning permission. Once we get that, the funding has to be found. The development is estimated to cost €4m-€5m.
The three things that were critical for us were: There was an existing life there. People used to go to it as a destination and do so now for the markets. We want to preserve and and reinforce this. Secondly, we want to build upon that with the physicality of the area based on the history of what was lying underneath – whether it is human fabric, used as a market before as well as the materiality that exists. The third element is to programme it in such a way that the scale of it relates to human behaviour and allow it be used by different generations.
You can’t control what goes into the square but we designed it based on the life that exists there now. it becomes more generic if retail chains go in. We are creating with it being specific to Newmarket. You can see the success of outdoor markets in creating a strong identity and making it a destination point.”
Words: Michael McDermott
Photos: Aoife Herrity
Plan Drawings: Urban Agency