Described in 1969 as a ‘trend setting development’, the Phibsborough Centre celebrates its 50th birthday this month. With so many buildings from that era now gone – Apollo House, Fitzwilliam House and the ESB HQ have all been demolished in the last two years – the Phibsborough Centre belongs to a diminishing group of 1960s/70s concrete buildings.
As recent plans to revamp the complex have run into trouble, it looks like the centre has many more birthdays to come. Brian McMahon of Brand New Retro presents fifteen facts about it…
1. Developers bought the site in 1962 but construction didn’t start until 1967.
2. Over 20 Victorian cottages were demolished to make way for building. The developers told The Irish Times, “We knocked on the doors of the 21 single-storey sad and depressing cottages, which had been dying for over 50 years. Their most modern amenity was a toilet at the rear of the garden.”
3. Noel Lemass officially opened the centre on 24th October 1969.
4. It was the first major office block development built on the Northside apart from Liberty Hall.
5. It was the first office/shopping area built together on one site in Ireland. The centre had 22 shops covering 30,000 square feet with an extra 34,000 square feet of office space in the eight-floor tower block.
6. But the eight storey tower block with was an afterthought. The original plan was for shops only.
7. Dublin architect David Keane designed the centre. Leslie Rebanks, a town centre design expert, from Toronto acted as a consultant.
8. Galen Weston, also from Toronto, was the director with Commercial Developments Ltd the company behind the ambitious £1m development.
9. Weston moved to Dublin from Canada in 1961 when he was 21 and within two years he launched the Power Supermarket chain. His Powers store were the main anchor tenant in the Phibsborough Centre along with Penneys where he was also chief executive. In 1966 he married Dublin fashion model Hilary Freyne who helped establish the Primark brand. The couple moved to Toronto in 1974 and Freyne became one of the world’s most successful businesswomen. They no longer have connections with the Phibsborough Centre but their company owns Penneys, Brown Thomas and Arnotts.
10. The developers also bought a site across the road with plans for a swimming pool. Nothing came of this.
11. Eddie Rockets have occupied the corner spot since 1993. Previous restaurants included Pizza Cabin, KFC and Emmas.
12. Quinnsworth took over from Powers and bought the adjoining Penneys store to increase their supermarket floor space.
13. In 1997, Tesco Ireland took over from Quinnsworth and continue to operate in what is one of their most profitable sites.
14. Tesco own their store and earlier this year refused to give consent to the developers for a €50 million An Bord Pleanála approved plan to revamp the centre along with Dalymount Park. Without Tesco’s agreement, the developers would not have right of way access to allow construction. Tesco claim the revamp “jeopardises our ability to trade”’ as it would prevent them taking deliveries into the front of their shop.
15. Neighbours Bohemian FC called on “the parties involved to work together to resolve their differences to allow for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to deliver an integrated design of Phibsborough Village Centre.
The club statement from April, 2019 continued, “While this impasse would not prevent the redevelopment of Dalymount Park, it would however result in a final design that could not fully grasp the opportunity for both sites to provide the maximum social return to the local community. We call on Tesco to take account of this reality.”
Words: Brian McMahon
Images: Press advert October 1969
Brian McMahon participates in the opening of Found Negatives at 6.30pm Fri October 25th, which takes place at the new @Phizzfest space in Phibsboro Shopping Centre: For more see #FoundNegatives