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October 8, 2007

Dublin City Council to develop new vision for Liberties

logo_dublincityDublin City Council today launched a new urban regeneration project for the Liberties area in Dublin’s inner city, to be developed in close consultation with the local community. The City Council will work with the local community to develop a regeneration framework plan for the area. The area extends from St James’ Hospital to the west and Francis Street to the east. The northern boundary is Thomas Street and the southern boundary is Cork Street. The scale of this project is similar to Ballymun and the timeframe is between 8 and 10 years minimum. A lot of the investment will come from public funding and from private investors, with the City Council releasing land in return for new social housing and other community amenities and facilities.

“Instead of us presenting the community with a draft scheme and asking for their views, the City Council and the community will work together to develop a vision for the area”, says John Tierney Dublin City Manager. “This approach is already working well in Ballymun and gives the community the opportunity to plan the future they want for their area. The Liberties project will look at new housing opportunities for the area and will consider the appropriateness of demolition and new build of some of the City’s own apartment blocks, but only if this is the best way of providing new modern and bigger apartments for our tenants. There seems to be enough space to build more and better apartments in the area for social, private and affordable use. Some of the existing schemes are very out of date and are quite low density but occupy a lot of space because of the way they are laid out. But nothing will be decided until we get the views of the people who live and work in the area. There will also be options for new community facilities such as a library and a park. There are very few opportunities for a capital city to provide a new park in an inner city area but again we want to hear where people would like to see a new park built.”

The area has a tremendous heritage of urban history and planning including the City Basin and the Grand Canal Harbour. It also has some very important historic sites including the Abbey of St Thomas which was founded in 1177 to commemorate Thomas a Beckett and dissolved in 1539 by Henry V111. The area is already visited by thousands of tourists each year who come to the Guinness Storehouse and they all want to know more about the history of the area and why it is called the Liberties.

The area like its counterpart in Brick Lane in London was built outside the walls of the city it was area renowned for weaving and like Brick Lane the Huguenots moved to the area from France in the 17th C. Originally there were many different breweries in the area the most famous being the Guinness Brewery. It is quite a cosmopolitan area with lots of people of different nationalities living here and there is a strong sense of entrepreneurship among local people who have a long tradition of markets and street trading again very like the Brick Lane. The area is looking forward to the reopening of the Iveagh Market. There are many artists living in the area which is partly due to the presence of the nearby National College of Art and Design but is also due to the slightly edgy nature of the area which artists are attracted to.

One project already at design stage in the area is the re-introduction of water into the old Grand Canal Harbour, (the harbour was used by Guinness boats until it was filled in the 1960’s and was originally built in 1785 and was the terminus of the Grand Canal). This new waterway will be surrounded by retail, offices and apartments and will be an important signal that the famous Liberties area is being restored to its former glory.

The area already has a thriving entertainment industry with Vicar Street and the Tivoli Theatre. In recent years architectural firms have moved into the area and The City Council hopes they will become actively involved in the consultation workshops in their role as residents of the area.

Evelyn Hanlon who formerly worked on the Ballymun Regeneration project has been assigned by Dublin City Council project manage this new and important regeneration project. “This historic area of the city has seen a lot of development – both private and public – in recent years and further development is already underway, including the new Luas line from Lucan which is expected to go through the area on its way to St Stephen’s Green to connect the two lines. It is a good time for the people who live and work in the area, to have their say about what they think should happen and what amenities they would like to see included in future developments. In many ways the area has been left behind as other areas were developed, but the time for the Liberties has now arrived”, says Evelyn Hanlon, Dublin City Council. “The Luas line from Lucan coming through the area will is an important driver for investment, particularly commercial investment. There are many opportunities for offices and retail, including providing growing room for the Digital Hub’s activities. Already there are over 500 IT specialists working in this area and many are young workers who have chosen to live close to the city centre. They need shops, they need things to do and places to spend their money.”

A programme of community engagement will run throughout the autumn and will be launched at the Guinness Storehouse at 11.30 am on Monday 8th October. The programme will start with three Neighbourhood Meetings, running from 3.30 pm to 7.00 pm to will allow people who work in the area as well as those living in the area to come along and have their say.

10th October. Pimlico area. Meeting in St Catherine’s Sports Centre on Marrowbone Lane.
11th October. Liberties area. St Nicholas of Myra Parish Centre, Carman’s Hall off Francis Street.
18th October. t James Parish Hall, St James Street. Grand Canal Harbour/Basin Lane area.

The City Council has appointed John Thompson and Partners (JTP), a firm of architects, urban designers and community planners to work with the local stakeholders and residents to develop a vision for the area. The vision will be included in a Framework Plan for the area and will help to form the basis for regeneration.

The meetings will begin with workshops where people will be invited to look at the issues and opportunities in the area. This will be followed by discussions in smaller groups around large scale plans of the area and walkabouts in the neighbourhood to show the design team where there are problems and opportunities. “Everyone with an interest in the area is welcome to attend. People can drop in for a short while or stay for the whole session. Those unable to attend their local workshop are welcome to come along to one of the other area workshops.” Says Clare San Martin, John Thompson & Partners.

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