Re: Re: Dublin Fruit Market

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The ailing Dublin City Business Association and Dublin City Council combined on Tues 25 Feb to host a seminar on A Rejuvenated Dublin City Markets and a piece in the Irish Times follows today:

The seminar was a rather staid affair, despite the interesting subject matter. Much of the audience must have felt like ‘announcement fodder’, given that questions or comments from the floor weren’t taken. Nevertheless there was the, at least, positive development that we have moved from discussing the Market Hall as a “hidden gem” in the north city to actually doing something about its chronic underuse of the past 20-30 years. At a ‘Food in the City’ seminar a couple of years back the city council was almost pleasantly surprised to hear that all these ready-made market halls dotted the city – what luck!

The Council is currently undertaking a refurbishment of the Market Hall including repainting the roof and ironwork and replacing electrics etc. Its been ongoing for 2 years now.

To listen to the City Council officials present, the Markets are being managed in an exemplary manner against the odds, and regular comment was made on the quality of the facade, restored in the late 1990s by DCC and winner of the Europa Nostra Award in 2000. Inevitably those stunning floodlit images abounded. But as we know, the reality is far from these images and as I have frequently commented here and elsewhere the Hall is a filthy, poorly maintained site, covered in graffiti, surrounded by what must be the most dismal public realm in the city.

Nevertheless, the plans of the Council in this instance are very welcome, for the Hall at least. A mix of stall types within and various facilities such as cafes and toilets etc. The Chancery Lane facade is to be removed and replaced with a glass front to allow light and warmth into the Hall. A sheltered area to the front of this will allow for outdoor market stalls. Curiously, no mention was made of the former steel girders etc of the Fish Market which was demolished about 2007. The original Framework Plan vision for the Markets was to reuse its steelwork to add to the Fruit & Veg Market Hall. But sure who knows where this stuff is now. Rumours a few years back were that the entire Fish Market was bought lock, stock and red-brick barrell and transported to Switzerland, a place where they undoubtedly appreciate these things more.

The site of the Fish Market is now a car park, a la the 1980s mode. These new plans are to retain the car park and the long serving city council official who announced the plans paid a rather worrying emphasis on the parking. But it must be recognised that some parking is needed. A much better addition in my view would be to construct a Luas stop on Chancery Lane to serve the Market. The mention of road safety audits and the like suggests that a whole rake of new signs and traffic engineering solutions are being devised for the huge ‘conflict’ that will inevitably arise here. Its only necessary to walk around the area to see how clutter much abounds; there’s hardly a tree or a quality stretch of pavement in sight.

One of the big omissions from the day was the lack of recognition of the wider Markets Area audits poor quality and uninviting public realm. Its not attractive to walk here. Its not a destination. It doesn’t feel desirable or safe or interesting. But the wider area must wait.

Also not discussed is how the new retail market will be managed. Who is going to do this? What’s the model? I would hardly be confident that the diminishing City Council could do this. But this matter wasnt even addressed, although DCBA did make a plea at the end for an SIV to be established to run the Market, perhaps with them controlling this (?).

The most interesting element of the day undoubtedly came from the visiting delegation from Borough Markets in London. Telling their story of 20 years of progressive development of the markets in Southwark, the former trustee (the markets are not council owned but rather owned and controlled by a Board of Trustees for over 250 years) and the project architect showed just how visionary a project like this can be. What struck me most is the degree of refinement and quality that pervades Borough Markets and the innovative way that the Trustees leveraged additional uses to the area and expanded into the derelict surrounding area, all without demolishing it wholescale (as was proposed under the 2007 plans by DCC and its former partners for Dublin City Markets).

Looking to the wider city, I am not at all confident that air of refinement and quality will establish in the City Markets. This will be a shame, as it is on so many other supposedly ‘quality’ streets in the city centre.

A Part VIII planning application for the redevelopment will be lodged in March. Work to commence in November and the Markets to open in September 2015. David Brennan of DCBA at least suggested that a limited retail market be established in the meantime to build a profile for the new venture.

A 2012 report by DBCA on the issue can be read here:

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