Hotspots: from Canal Basin to techie haven
This formerly down-at-heel part of Dublin 4 has been transformed into what has been dubbed the Tech Quarter, or Googletown. So what is it like to live there, who are the neighbours and what’s for sale (clue: family three-beds are rare)
The Tech Quarter, also known as Googletown, is a quadrant bordering Grand Canal Street, Macken Street, Sir John Rogerson’s Quay and South Lotts Road. While in part a Dublin 4 address, the area was once down at heel. In 1981 the Grand Canal Basin served as a backdrop to the cover of U2’s second album, October, with the scene put to motion in the video for Gloria, their second single from the album. Today the scene is unrecognisable, save for glimpses of the Factory music studios and Boland’s Mills.
“The area has utterly changed, from not having anywhere to buy a pint of milk to becoming a cosmopolitan quarter where you have to take a ticket and queue to drink in the views from the Rooftop Bar at the Marker Hotel,” says estate agent Owen Reilly, himself a resident who has been living on Forbes Quay for six years.
Now home to the offices of Facebook, Google and Twitter, U2’s strong association with the area continues. They have a studio on Hanover Quay and, together with starchitect Norman Foster, put forward a design for a tower in 2007/2008 that divided opinion on what would have been Ireland’s tallest building. While the recession iced those plans, Google maps references the building that never was.
Development isn’t finished, says Reilly. “The North Lotts/Grand Canal Docks has been designated a SDZ (strategic development zone), which will fast track planning.”
What residents say
“The area feels vibrant because a lot of the residents are in their 20s,” says Ross Staunton, who runs Food Game on South Lotts Road. “They have no commitments and spend all their pay packet every month.”
Amanda Duesund (27), from Bergen, Norway, is one such resident. She has been living in the Tech Quarter for 12 months. The Nordic client partner at Facebook estimates the average age in the area to be 30. “Residents are mainly international young professionals.”
She only sees older people at senior viewings at the nearby Bord Gáis Energy theatre, a place she likes to frequent.
Even though she takes her pug, Rocky, for walks in Pearse Square she doesn’t meet too many locals living in the area and cites high rents as a factor.
All her friends work and socialise within the same mile-radius. Does she ever suffer from cabin fever? “When we want to escape we jump on the Dart and take a day trip out to Howth or walk the strand in Sandymount or picnic in Ringsend Park.”
If there’s one downside it is the fact that it takes 25 minutes to walk to Grafton Street.
Contemporary architecture abounds. The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, designed by Daniel Libeskind, has helped draw more mature couples and kids into the area. Grand Canal Dock and Hanover Dock form an aquatic amenity aided by the artwork of landscape architect, Martha Schwartz.
Duesund makes use of it to share a bottle of prosecco with friends by the dock, where you can windsurf, kayak and sail.
There are green spaces at South Dock Street park and Pearse Square. The area holds many free events including the annual Summerfest and Maritime festival, which draw huge numbers into the area and offer street theatre, boat rides, markets and funfairs.
Catch Leinster or Ireland playing at Aviva Stadium, or the dogs at Shelbourne Park Greyhound track and there’s swimming, tennis, squash or five-aside soccer at ESB Sportsco on South Lotts Road.
The Super Natural Food Market is on Saturdays at St Andrew’s Resource Centre, on Pearse Street. The local Garda stations are in Pearse Street and Irishtown.
Where can you go out in the neighbourhood?
You’re spoilt for restaurant and pub choices. There are tasty sandwiches at Il Valentino, fine wine and food at Ely, people-watching at the rooftop bar of the Marker Hotel.
On the South Lotts Road intersection with Bath Avenue there is a second hip hub where Paulie’s Pizza, Junior’s Deli and Cafe, The Chop House and Farmer Browns all offer appetising menus. The Ferryman on Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, Slattery’s and the Bath offer authentic Irish pub experiences.
The opening of Grand Canal Dock Dart station in 2001 helped access to the area. So did the 2009 opening of the Samuel Beckett Bridge facilitating cross-town traffic. Parking is an issue, says Owen Reilly. He estimates that 70 per cent of residents have no cars.
Expansion of Dublin Bikes will include new, unspecified, locations in the area, including possibly Barrow Street. There is a proposal to pedestrianise part of Barrow Street. The area is served by the 1, 2, 3, 50, 56a, 77 and 77a buses.
The area needs more schools, says Staunton. The father- of-two recently moved, with his wife and kids, out of the two-bedroom apartment he bought in the Gasworks in 2006 because they had outgrown it. They’re now in Sandymount where he hopes his kids will go to school. The two nearest schools are St Patrick’s and Naomh Pádraig Boys primary school, both on Cambridge Road in Ringsend.
Mother-of-two Jessica Ryan has spent the last two years spearheading an Educate Together school campaign (dublin4educatetogether.ie).
“There will be a school in our area for 2014 and I’m confident it will be an Educate Together school,” she says.
St Brigid’s Primary School and St Mary’s Boys National School are nearby on Haddington Road. Two more options are Baggot-Street-based Catherine McCauley NS and Scoil Caitríona Na mbráithre.
Loreto on the Green and Catholic University School are fee-paying options. St Matthews Church of Ireland, co-ed primary school is on Cranfield Place in Sandymount.
The nearest public secondary school is Ringsend Technical Institute on Cambridge Road. Thirty-one per cent of the students went on to third level, according to the 2012 Irish Times School League Tables. Fee-paying options include Teresian College for girls, and St Michaels for boys, in Donnybrook. Muckross Park College for girls and Marian College for boys are non-fee paying options.
Where to buy?
Anywhere within a 3km radius of the Google building, says Simon Madigan of Young’s estate agents. “Professional couples are looking at the two-up, two-down redbricks on Gordon and Doris Streets and on South Lotts Road, where the houses are bigger and have off-street parking, a luxury in this area.”
There is a lack of three-bedroom apartments and houses, Reilly says. Investors should note the IT crowd want state- of-the-art accommodation and are happy to pay above-average rental rates for it, says Madigan. “They will pay as much as €1,700 for a two-bedroom apartment.”
THREE TO BUY
98 Hanover Dock
A two-bedroom duplex asking €400,000 through agents Owen Reilly. The main bedroom is en suite and the 110sq m (1,184sq ft) property has a west-facing roof garden that comes complete with Jacuzzi.
46 Doris Street, Ringsend, Dublin 4
A 54sq m (581sq ft) two-bedroom terraced house in need of complete modernisation. It has a small yard to the rear and is asking €200,000 through Youngs estate agents
11 Block A, Gallery Quay, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2
A bright two-bedroom apartment on the third floor measuring about 70sq m (753sq ft) and seeking €299,000 through agents Hooke and MacDonald. Management fees of €2,108.69 a year.