'Oriental enclave' recommended for Dublin


DERELICTION AND urban blight which have dogged one of Dublin’s historic inner city areas could be reversed if an oriental quarter were developed on Parnell Street according to a report by the Dublin Civic Trust.

The report recommends restoration of the traditional 18th and 19th century facades, the removal of garish shopfronts and signage, new paving, lighting and trees on Parnell Street East and the creation of an off-street “oriental enclave” or village of restaurants and shops.

Commissioned by the Dublin City Business Association and Carroll’s Gifts and Souvenirs, the report criticises the “disfigurement” of the street through demolition and low-quality additions, and accuses Dublin City Council of failing to enforce planning regulations and follow through on several planned regeneration schemes for the area. Parnell Street East, running from O’Connell Street to Gardiner Street has 13 listed buildings many of which had been allowed to decline with the loss of historic joinery, windows and masonry and the addition of inappropriate elements such as PVC windows, garish paintwork, and plastic and illuminated signage. In some cases buildings lay vacant and semi-derelict but in other cases the original frontages were just hidden by modern additions and could be restored relatively easily.

Commercial activity on the street had increased over the last decade due to the influx of “ethnic businesses” attracted by low rents, but the report says “this belies the serious and long-standing problems of a lack of investment and continued degradation of its historic building stock”.

While the new-found vibrancy of the street was welcome it had become a “transient immigrant district” with a high turnover and diminishing diversity of businesses. The turnover of users was causing degradation of the fabric of buildings with short-term tenants having little interest in undertaking capital improvements.

It was also clear, the report said, that some businesses change the use or undertake developments of a building without recourse to the planning system. The lack of planning enforcement on the street was evident in the number of historic buildings falling into dereliction. Two of the most important Georgian houses on the Street, numbers 76 and 78, were in a particularly poor condition, the report says.

“Further decay is inevitable if efforts are not made by Dublin City Council to identify the owners and seek remedial works.”

The city council had also failed to maintain the public realm of the street which was “dismal when one considers its location off the premier thoroughfare of a European capital.” Lighting and street furniture was “ugly and utilitarian”, and pavements were poorly maintained and “pockmarked” with tarmac patches.

The report envisages investment by the council in the public realm and enforcement of planning legislation, while business and property owners would restore shopfronts and buildings with traditional designs and complementary new buildings.

It also plans for the creation of a new “oriental enclave” in a block bounded by North Cumberland Street, Marlborough Street and Cathal Brugha Street. The “Village” could showcase Asian architecture and design and serve as a restaurant and shopping emporium “without unduly impacting on the sensitive surrounding streets and historic area”.

Colm Carroll, a property owner on Parnell Street said the business and property owners had agreed to invest in the street and while talks with the council are at an early stage, it had “given support to our aspirations”.

Oriental food quarter branding would attract people, but the historic nature of the buildings would be respected he said.

Suggestions made by former lord mayor Gerry Breen that a Chinese Arch should be erected at the entrance of the street were “unlikely to be a runner”, Mr Carroll said.