On 29th March 2018 Eamon Ryan TD and I met with Frederich Ludewig of Acme: the firm employed by Hammerson PLC to work on a revised design for the extensive lands that they control on and around Moore Street in Dublin's north inner city.
The drawings that Frederich showed us display a clear understanding of the urban grain of the site. They are a marked change from the over-scaled plans drawn up some years ago for the site. Interestingly he is considering a small public square that would lie on a new East-West route that would run from O'Connell Street across to the entrance to the ILAC centre on Moore Street.
He was accompanied by Simon Betty, head of Hammerson Ireland and Julia Collier, their head of Public Affairs Hammerson Ireland as well as Jackie Gallagher of Q4. I asked them were they going to be taken over by the French company Klépierre, and they deftly kicked that one to touch. Moore Street is a classic example of urban decay and possible renewal, but the growing influence of global companies is self-evident when you see that Klépierre is being advised by Goldman Sachs and Citibank. Perhaps I'm too nostalgic, but I feel it is worrying that global companies are taking over lands that were previously owned by local families. Saskia Sassen has a lot to say on this issue. If Hammerson isn't taken over by Klépierre hopefully they will proceed with a sensitive development on the site. It will need to respects the small-grain character and the presence of history on the site. This has been discussed at lenght by the Lord mayor's Committee on Moore Stret set up by Councillor Críona Ní Dhálaigh, and the Moore Street Consultative Group, set up by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, and chaired by Tom Collins.
Frederich seemed open to not proceeding with the 500 underground car parking spaces that were one of the crazier aspects of the Planning Permission (PL 29N.232347) granted by Bord Pleanála. This permission has been extended to 2022 by City Council officials. These plans even included an ugly car ramp on one side of O'Rahilly Parade, along with various utility cabinets. Not the best of commemorative tributes for someone who gave their life for Irish freedom. All the more reason to come up new plans for the site. I don't envy them their job. With online retail sales chomping up the high street at 2% a year, it is hard to make predictions about the future of shopping streets. What we do know though, is that they'll have to offer people a more attractive option that suburban malls or curling up on the couch with your tablet. If we make attractive places, they'll attract customers.
Hamerson seem to be well aware of the need to retain and conserve the buildings on the site that are Protected Structures (Listed Buildings) in the Dublin City Council Development Plan, but will also need to respect the buildings deemed of regional importance in the Government's National Inventory of Architectural Heritage. It is also worth keeping in public ownership the streets and lanes that are currently publicly accessible in the area, even if new routes or squares are added. I'm hoping that there will be a significant residential element in the new design. This was minimised in the original 'Dublin Central' scheme. It would be no harm to have 'eyes on the street' as Jane Jacobs would have said, but it would also be important that the scheme provide some of the homes that we need to tackle the housing crisis. It is also important that the views of existing traders on street figure in the proposals. One worrying aspect though might be the emergence of publicly accessible but privately owned or controlled open spaces within the development. We've already seen this happen in Dublin's Docklands, and there have been incidents of harassment from private security staff. It would be worrying if this were to happen on the streets and back-lanes that witnessed the birth of the nation.
Thankfully Dublin City Council controls an important piece of the jigsaw. This is our cleansing depot at 24-25 Moore Street. This piece of land is a crucial element of any redevelopment, and the City Council will have the final say on whether to release this important site for redevelopment. Let's see what Hammerson come up with. Hopefully it will be a significant improvement on the existing Planning Permission. There's talk in the plans of a John Lewis store fronting on to O'Connell Street which could be just the kind of lift the area needs, particularly with the Luas Cross City in place, and plans for Metrolink proceeding.
That pic at the top? That's 2 Moore Street. Ear-marked for demolition in the current plans, it would be good to retain this building and others and add an extra few floors on top. Wouldn't it be great to have ground floor shopping with families living over the shop once more?