Dublin City Council to seek conservation advisers for Victorian fruit market three years after closure

Redevelopment of the historic market first proposed 20 years ago

A team to advise on conservation works needed for Dublin’s fruit and vegetable market has been sought by Dublin City Council three years after it shut the Victorian building to make way for its redevelopment.

The council closed the market on Mary’s Lane, between Capel Street and Smithfield, in August 2019. At the time it said it would begin the tender process for its redevelopment as a continental-style food market within months and hoped to have the new market operational by 2021.

However, the facility has remained closed since, apart from its use by a construction company renting the market to store materials for the development of a nearby hotel.

The council on Wednesday said it had initiated a tender process for a design team “to detail the conservation works needed” for the market.


It said the project was “of the highest importance to Dublin City Council, not only in securing this landmark building as a market for future generations, but as a focal point in the local community and a catalyst for regeneration in the area”.

The council had already appointed a “conservation specialist” to “identify works, methodology and specifications for refurbishment and conservation works”. The new design team, which will be appointed in the autumn, will “detail those specifications” the council said.

The design team is expected to complete its work within six months. The council will then issue tenders for a contractor to undertake the recommended conservation work. Selecting and appointing this contractor is expected to take another six to seven months.

Separately the council will seek a company to fit out and operate the new market. While procuring this operator will begin during the conservation works, the council has not said when the new market will be operational.

The council has for seven years had permission to convert the 130-year-old wholesale market into a 50-50 retail and wholesale venue.

However, it is likely the market will be changed to a retail-only facility, depending on the outcome of the tender process for its redevelopment.

The council had in 2015 planned to convert the eastern side of the market into a continental-style food market with a range of producers including butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, fishmongers and greengrocers, while retaining the wholesale businesses in the western half of the market hall.

The redevelopment of the market was first proposed by the council in 2002. Following three years of planning, the Markets Framework Plan was published in 2005, featuring the refurbishment of the market as one element of a retail, apartment and office complex of up to six storeys in height with a new civic square and a leisure centre.

A consortium was selected for the €425 million project in 2007, and Merrion Hotel restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud was reported to be “in talks” as an anchor tenant, but contracts were never signed.

In 2011 the council announced considerably more modest plans to redevelop the fruit and vegetable market as a retail and wholesale food market. The following year it began repairs to the roof and in 2013 it drafted plans for the redevelopment with the intention of opening the new market in mid-2015.

Following a delay, largely resulting from a row over the use of the neighbouring former fish market site, plans for the redevelopment were approved by councillors in February 2015.

However, the development again stalled when it emerged later that year that vacant possession of the hall was required for the work to take place. At that point, about a dozen wholesalers were still using the building. Following years of negotiation with the traders, the council in August 2019 secured vacant possession of the building.

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly

Olivia Kelly is Dublin Editor of The Irish Times