A €3 million redevelopment of Dublin’s Victorian fruit and vegetable market as a continental-style food market is finally to go ahead more than 16 years after it was first planned.
Dublin City Council assistant chief executive Richard Shakespeare said he expects to have vacant possession of the 126-year-old market hall by the end of the summer and will then seek tenders for its refurbishment and conversion into a retail and wholesale market.
He said he hoped the revamp of the market, located between Capel Street and the Four Courts in the north inner city, would get under way early next year with work expected to take in the region of 18 months.
The council aims to attract a range of retail food producers including butchers, bakers, cheesemongers, fishmongers and greengrocers, while retaining the wholesale businesses in the western half of the market hall.
Mr Shakespeare said he did not want to see a “generic” food market on the site.
“People talk about the English Market in Cork, but we want a market with a quintessential Dublin feel. Something with a little bit of the magic dust of Dublin,” he said.
The redevelopment of the market has seen several false dawns since it was first mooted by the council in 2002.
Following three years in development, 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 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 and they feared the council was trying to “squeeze” them out of the market.
Following three years of negotiations, Mr Shakespeare said agreements with the remaining “seven or eight” traders were close to being finalised, with some accepting payments to terminate their leases and others choosing temporary relocation with the option to return to the refurbished market.
The redevelopment of the market had the potential to “revitalise” the area he said.
“Having this site in the middle of an area that is on the cusp of regeneration could kickstart the redevelopment of the whole area, really improving the quality of life locally.”
A number of traders confirmed negotiations were progressing with the council.