Well we can safely assume now that the Parnell Square Framework Plan is well and truly defunct. If I recall correctly, work was just about to get underway c. 2006-2007 on the public domain of the Cavendish Row side, before halting in its tracks - well before the downturn took hold. Anyone remember why?
Looking back in hindsight at the generally well-considered plan, complied by Howley Harrington Architects in 2004 and published in February 2005, the figures bandied about for some works were staggering, including an eye-popping €2.3 million just for repaving, coach parking provision and planting a few trees on Palace Row! The Celtic Tiger on turbo.
Sadly, not even non-capital intensive projects like improving the curtilage and presentation of the Rotunda have come about. With a number of recent highly dubious facade re-pointing jobs on the west side of Parnell Square, which in the long term actually degrade the quality of urban fabric, it could be argued that the square has degenerated further since the publication of the report.
The same is true of its wider environment, including Parnell Street east, a grand, well-proportioned thoroughfare with an historic building stock of such strength and character as to make one ache at its dilapidated potential.
This is a street that is grossly underrated by planners; one of the greatest assets to the north inner city if its strengths were capitalised on. Its buildings, as shown by gunter on the Dutch Billy thread, date from as far back as the early 18th century, with many more of later Georgian and Victorian origin. This is one of the best streets on the north side of the city precisely because it hasn’t received any large-scale ‘regeneration’ as with Parnell Street to the west.
In spite of a number of sites being tax-incentivised, and being located in the O’Connell Street ACA, ironically nothing but corrosive works have transpired here over the past decade. Most perplexing of all is the recent rendering over in cement of this charming cluster of late Georgian houses, all Protected Structures, at the junction with O’Connell Street.
A handsome array of buildings that encapsulates in a nutshell the dominant building typology of Dublin, until recently the houses featured a loose coat of render, apparently a Victorian lime plaster, which almost certainly would have walked off the buildings with a decent hand chisel and a mallet.
As the Dublin climate already tried to show us.
Also a beautiful narrow house here with roof profile intact and Wyatt windows, one of the very last of its kind in the city.
The potential for a full-on restoration of these merchant houses to their original brick-faced appearance is now almost certainly lost with the application of a strong cemetitious render. Of course no planning permission whatever was applied for. The owner saw fit to sit on these derelict protected buildings for probably over a decade, and then carry out the most botched job conceivable to apply to such a series of buildings. And they're still empty. The dingy vacant scaffold erected over them earlier this year should have set alarm bells ringing...
If DCC had kept the pressure on owners on Parnell Street through incentivising conservation and restoration works with grant funding, tax carrots, and offers of internal guidance and support, this may very well never have happened. The same can be said of the grubby hotel next door, probably owned by a former Garda, gaming merchant or farmer, who recently saw fit, on Protected Structures, in an ACA, to ‘tart up’ the frontage by applying yet another layer of garish paint over the brickwork. The result.
There doesn’t seem to be an understanding that standard laws of economics do not work, and never will work, in situations and city areas such as these. A concerted effort must be made by a planning authority to effect change on the ground, by contacting owners, holding discussions, finding out stakeholders’ long term plans and proposals, outlining all available options, offer constructive support, and use the stick of CPO if necessary in the case of derelict sites. Instead however, we get opportunist, speculative applications trickling in on the whim of owners, and when they do, inevitably propose lowest common denominator of infill trash. As charted here before, this behemoth of a mega-apartment scheme, tax-incentivised using public funds, with only a miniscule fraction of a street frontage into Parnell Street, gave this back to the citizens of Dublin. Simply outrageous.
The marvelous potential for a gracious Georgian streetscape of red brick, with marching ranks of correct sash windows and well-proportioned shopfronts, is waiting to be realised here, as much as it is sadly being eroded by the day. If this terrace was properly tackled, it would be the making of Parnell Street.