Old public toilets on Kevin St for redevelopment as cafe

The building could go to market early next year, says Dublin City Council

The toilets are on a traffic island in Dublin’s Liberties. Photograph: Dan Griffin

The toilets are on a traffic island in Dublin’s Liberties. Photograph: Dan Griffin

 

The former public toilets on Kevin Street, the last vestige of Dublin’s “Four Corners of Hell”, will be brought back into use as a cafe “as soon as practical”.

The toilets sit on a traffic island at the junction of Kevin Street and New Street South and have been out of use for about 20 years despite being relatively intact.

The council’s development department is “very keen to put the former public toilets to the markets”, an internal email said this year. “We have had a lot of interest in it,” the email, released under the Freedom of Information Act, added.

The Liberties crossroad junction of Kevin Street, New Street South, Dean Street and Patrick Street famously had a pub on each corner. It became particularly rowdy at closing time when Kenny’s, Quinn’s, O’Beirne’s and Lowe’s disgorged their customers onto the streets, earning the junction the nickname “The Four Corners of Hell”.

The toilets have been closed to the public for about 20 years. Photograph: Dan Griffin
The toilets have been closed to the public for about 20 years. Photograph: Dan Griffin

An article on Come Here to Me website describes how the pubs, along with the area’s vitality, were lost during the street-widening mania of 1970s and 1980s when Dublin Corporation ran a dual carriageway through the heart of the neighbourhood, transforming a vibrant community intersection into a soulless traffic junction.

In 1979, in an article in The Irish Times, Frank McDonald lamented how Dublin was being “sacrificed to the insatiable demands of the motor car”. He despaired at the transformation of the corner into a major traffic interchange but he noted that the toilets were to be saved because of their outstanding civic design character. “But there’s no doubt that it will look somewhat incongruous in its new surroundings,” he said.

Protected structure

The toilets, now listed on the record of protected structures, are shaded by hornbeam and London plane trees and share the traffic island with a small park which the council has recently tidied up.

The council receives a lot of interest in the disused facilities. In correspondence released under Freedom of Information Act, one person involved in the restaurant business said they wanted to refurbish them because it “would make an extraordinary addition to the streetscape”. Another asked if it could be turned into a residential development. “You see the thing is, I’ve fallen in love with the building and the idea of making a home out of it.” One person who wanted to turn the building into a café even prepared a booklet based on what he thought was inside the building.

Early next year

In a draft advertisement prepared by the council in 2017, proposals were sought from people interested in leasing the 65.8sqm premises as a café/restaurant. The ad was never published, however. The council wanted more time to consider their options around the small park as well as the best way of refurbishing the toilets.

There is a small park on the traffic island. Photograph: Dan Griffin
There is a small park on the traffic island. Photograph: Dan Griffin

This month an official in the council’s planning and property development department said “a final decision has not been made whether to refurbish the building ourselves and go to tender for someone to operate it or to place it on the market ‘as is’.

“Irrespective of which route we go down the plan is to bring the building back into use as soon as is practical bearing in mind the challenges presented by its historical status. If it goes to the market it is likely to be advertised early next year.”