Changes are on the way to Georges Street in Dún Laoghaire. From Monday 8th December car traffic is going to be allowed back down Georges Street. Currently only buses are allowed down the street.
I think this is a step backwards, and I'd be happier if if the street was completely traffic free for most of the day. However the councillors (with the exception of the Green Party) voted a few months ago to allow cars back on to the main street of the town.
There will be a review after eighteen months, but I suspect that once cars are allowed back again onto the main street it'll be hard to remove them.
It's a tough retail environment in Dún Laoghaire. Many people head off into Dublin to do their shopping, and lots more head to the cathedral of retail that is Dundrum Shopping Centre. That, combined with the aging demographics on the eastern side of the County puts pressure on all the businesses in Dún Laoghaire. Some shops haven't had a face-lift in a long time, and could do with some work; at least to replace missing letters on their shop-signs.
Traders in the two shopping centres, Bloomfields and the old Dún Laoghaire Shopping Centre are doing their best, but the buildings suffer from design challenges. Despite the recent refurbishment the old Shopping Centre is not the most pleasant of buildings. It presents a lot of blank brick frontage to the street, and belongs to a period when insufficient attention was paid to making buildings relate to their surroundings. Personally I'd be happy to send in the wrecking ball and start again, but realistically I don't feel this is a runner. Had it been designed differently we could have had a magnificent window facing the harbour, and the building could have been filled with sunlight. Maybe the owners might considering opening up windows to some of the shops on the outside walls, and perhaps putting apartments on top, so as to attract more life to the streets after dark. I feel the town should develop more specialist retail, that would attract more tourists to spend time in the town when they arrive from Wales, instead of heading straight for the M50.
Patrick Street in Dún Laoghaire is one of my all-time favourite streets though. All of human life is there, and there's an amazing moment at 11.45 every morning when the HSS Ferry suddenly appears in the distance, heading out to sea beyond the East Pier. Businesses on the street sell everything from pizza to memory chips, and if it wasn't for the occasional SUV parking on the footpath, it would win any prize going.
The turning on of the Christmas lights was a great occasion. The Dún Laoghaire Business Association had a parade around the town, and a stunning fireworks display at the Harbour Plaza, Around five hundred people waited in the cold for Santa, who arrived on the HSS Ferry from Holyhead. Peter Caviston also appeared on his messenger boy bicycle, and threw dead ducks at the crowd. Depending on which side of the meat-eater / vegetarian divide that you occupied this either horrified you or had you licking your lips. Refreshments were served afterwards, and the event brought hundreds of people into town for the start of the Christmas rush. It's a difficult time for retailers, and the more people that can be persuaded to shop locally, the better it will be for the County.
I still don't feel that allowing cars back on Georges Street is the right idea. We must be one of the few towns in Europe allowing cars back into a pedestrianised area.