Fumbally Exchange struggles to find new home after sale of building

Founder George Boyle says creative energy being siphoned out of Dublin by boom prices

Photograph: The Fumbally Exchange

Photograph: The Fumbally Exchange

 

The headquarters of the Fumbally Exchange collaborative working space in Dublin has been forced to find a new premises for the more than 100 people working in its building, following the sale of its Dame Lane site in the city centre.

The not-for-profit organisation, which provides low cost office space for entrepreneurs, will have to vacate its flagship building this summer due to the sale of the listed Dame Lane building which currently belongs to Eir.

The organisation, which was founded by architect George Boyle in 2010 and moved from Dublin 8 to the Dublin 2 location in 2013, hosts entrepreneurs working across a range of sectors including architecture, digital media, copywriting, engineering, interior design, event planning, publishing and photography.

The idea was inspired by the Metropolitan Exchange in New York which was originally created in response to the recession.

Ms Boyle said the organisation was issued with a notice of termination of its lease in May 2017 and has, since then, been trying to find a suitable location in Dublin city centre where it can relocate its collaborative business space. However, securing a long-term, affordable lease in our booming capital city has been near impossible, she said.

“We started looking last summer for 10,000sq ft and the reality is there are hundreds of thousands of empty office spaces in Dublin. Most of these are third or fourth generation which means they’re over 40-50 years old and most are waiting for the wrecking ball.

“What we’re really looking for is another enlightened landlord like our landlord from Eir who could see the potential for the neighbourhood of allowing us to use their building. Eir has been nothing but brilliant to us. They gave us shelter when nobody else was willing to.”

A spokeswoman for Eir said they were unable to comment on the sale of the building.

Unlike other co-working spaces springing up around the city, the Fumbally Exchange also works with local communities to help with the regeneration of urban areas, said Ms Boyle.

“We charge a much lower rent, it’s a membership fee really. But what we expect in return is that members will participate in our programmes. If you activate the skill sets of a group properly you can make a vast impact on an area. It’s social, economic, educational and civic. That’s what makes the Fumbally so unique.”

Partnership

Ms Boyle says the organisation would ideally like to form a partnership with the Office of Public Works (OPW) in relocating to another protected building in the city centre. “The OPW has acres of protected structures and it would be very easy for us to adapt the space for co-working use,” she said, adding she is also interested in moving the office space to the north inner city area. “We’d be most impactful somewhere in the north quays, Gardiner Street or Mary’s Abbey. North Dublin is still suffering a dearth of regeneration.

“We have been offered lots of lovely places on the periphery of Dublin but the creative energy is being siphoned out of the city because of this phenomenon that when boom times come to cities, the creatives must go. We’re not expecting charity, we’re expecting people to measure the impact as well as the money in terms of what Fumbally can contribute to an area.”