Dublin business group seeks to revive rejuvenation plans for 'city markets'

 

PLANS TO redevelop Dublin city’s Victorian fruit and vegetable markets and surrounding area that collapsed two years ago are being revived by the Dublin City Business Association (DCBA).

Dublin City Council in 2005 published the Markets Framework Plan, a €425 million urban regeneration scheme for the north inner city area surrounding the Victorian Fruit and Vegetable Market, the former fish market and the Daisy Market.

Under the plan, the wholesale fruit market was to be converted into a high-end retail food market, retaining some wholesalers and introducing restaurants. The fish market site would be turned into a civic square surrounded by shops, offices and apartments, and the Daisy Market would be developed as a three-storey sports, leisure and community centre.

In late 2007 a consortium led by Paddy Kelly, one of the principal developers involved in the regeneration of nearby Smithfield, was selected by the council as the preferred bidder for the regeneration project. Restaurateur Patrick Guilbaud and the Exchequer Street restaurant, wine bar and high-end grocers Fallon Byrne were identified as potential anchor tenants for the scheme.

However, agreements were never signed and Mr Kelly’s property empire subsequently collapsed. Earlier this year, the council sought to turn part of the site, the Daisy Market, into a waste depot and recycling facility but was blocked by councillors.

DCBA yesterday published the Capel Street and City Markets report, which it said is a strategy to rejuvenate the area as a “distinctive shopping environment” and create a “gastronomic centre for the city” without relying on property developers.

The plan focuses on Capel Street and the markets area as two distinct but linked districts. The report notes that the council has had several plans for the regeneration of these areas since the 1990s, but while nearby areas such as Henry Street have improved dramatically over the last two decades Capel Street and the markets have remained substantially run-down.

The centrepiece of the area, the fruit and vegetable market should be rebranded as “City Markets” and developed along the lines of the English Market in Cork with small businesses selling indigenous products. Unlike what the report describes as the council’s “rather grandiose plans” for the markets which are now “unachievable”, the markets should be developed gradually, with the small number of existing fruit and vegetable wholesalers encouraged to develop a retail element where practical.

The council, which still owns the market should upgrade it so it would be suitable and attractive for other food retailers. They in time would attract associated businesses such as restaurants, cafes and cookery schools. Capel Street would then benefit from the increased pedestrian flow of shoppers from Henry Street towards the City Markets.

Almost a quarter of the premises of Capel Street are vacant and others house “undesirable” businesses such as adult shops, or have shop fronts which are inappropriate to the architectural character of the street. The council should use its existing planning powers to eliminate these problems, the report said.

Mary’s Lane, which links Capel Street to the markets should be pedestrianised, it continued, and a new Luas stop should be located behind the markets.

DCBA chief executive Tom Coffey said the initial upgrade of the Victorian market would cost the council less than €1 million and would be a catalyst for the development of the area.