Re: Re: Carlton Cinema Development
Yep it’s a street that now looks fabulous in the sun. It makes all the difference when there’s no traffic, or to be more precise, no buses. A real joy post-morning rush hour.
Ah fergal’s off on his 1920s-bashing again ;). What did they ever do to you? They brought us such useful innovations as the morning suit, outrageously dodgy electrics, facisim, and er, depression. What’s not to like?
The mishmash of O’Connell Street’s building stock is what makes it interesting. An Irish solution to an Irish problem one might say – an unabashed physical manifestation of the complete inability of the Irish to come to any sort of collective decision. Bearing in mind that Regent Street, as the most obvious equivalent across the water, was being gradually rebuilt to a unified plan over the course of 1895-1925 or so – not to mention large tracts of Whitehall – it makes sense that O’Connell Street would aspire to a similar design concept in its dual bouts of reconstruction.
The failure of city authorities, property owners and arguably central government to realise the above vision has resulted in the charming, if underwhelming, collective of varied terraces that comprises modern-day O’Connell Street, ranging from pompous neoclassicism, swaggering (if watery) Art Deco, stripped classicism, neo-Georgian and everything in between.
The simple fact is that even if those ‘incomplete’ parts as survived destruction were torn down today to attempt some level of unification, the 1910s and 1920s buildings themselves are still so varied in style as to make such a scheme near-impossible. Likewise, the latter’s grandeur and general aura of old-fashioned civic dutifulness, even if dubious in parts, collectively often makes for a surprisingly monumental streetscape. Many of these buildings are of merit, with a refreshing clarity of design; they simply require closer inspection.
The problem with the Upper O’Connell Street west and part of Lower O’Connell Street west is not so much their modest architectural style, as their buildings’ standard of presentation. Were efforts made to ensure quality maintenance of upper floors, the removal of myriad inappropriate accretions, and some attempts undertaken to return coherence to the last surviving Wide Streets Commission buildings at the lower end of the street, real progress could be made. And yes, that even includes Burger King in all its arch-windowed glory. Far better to retain what remains of the original Sackville Mall townhouse and WSC commercial buildings’ footprints, keeping that connection with the origins and later development of the street, while making real commitment to improving its appearance.
(I knew this Carlton/O’Connell Street thread divide would get messy eventually!)
What needs to be considered when discussing the renaisance of Regent Street are that one Land Owner (CE) owns most of the street and many adjoining ownerships. Whilst from a visual perspective all one sees is perfectly restored upper floors and stone shopfronts there has been a huge amount of remodling work to make it stack up in financial terms.
What CE have done is amalgamate many ground and first floors of buildings previously sub-divided; their aim is entirely commercial i.e. to create MSU’s or multiple space units for International retailers many of whom are doing a first UK store. The in house fund manager behind most of these initiatives is a very switched on individual who has turned down a number of very lucrative deals to get the retail mix right.
Getting the right type of footfall into O’Connell Street is 90% of the battle; the current retail mix excluding Cleary’s, Easons and Pennys are largely made up of two groups i.e. convenience stores/ take aways and shit goods stores such as Carrolls; these uses do not generate footfall and mainly serve two groups firstly; people in transit from other employment / retail clusters to public transport or Multi-story carparks or the second group who are tourists spilling out from Temple Bar which in recent years appears to have colonised Bachelors Walk.
To bring gems like the Hammam buildings back into serious use; you need to generate the footfall in O’C St beyond the needle; there is one option on the table to do that which is credible, costed and deliverable. There is much talking to be done by those that have the street’s best interest at heart.