Dorset Street in Dublin's north inner city would be turned into a "vibrant cosmopolitan destination village" and "culinary hub" under plans put forward by local residents and business groups.
Business group Dubhlinn, working with local residents and Dublin City Council, wants to end the dominance of traffic, fast food outlets, vacant buildings and adult shops, and restore the street to its "former glory" with renovated shop fronts and a pedestrian and cycle-friendly layout.
(From the archive: Dorset Street turning into 'red light' district, say Dublin residents)
Dorset Street, the principal traffic artery from Dublin Airport and the M1, was built as an upmarket residential area in the 18th century by the Gardiner family but became a thriving shopping district from the mid 19th century until the 1960s.
The removal of the tram line in the 1950s, which increased the dominance of the car, precipitated the flight of shoppers from the street and saw the area slide into decline.
"Dorset Street is the gateway to the city from the northside and the gateway to to Georgian Dublin but it's a gateway that's looking old and creaky," Tony Kelly of the Lower Dorset Street Community Group said.
Local businessman Tom McKeon said the street had the potential to become a model village for the 21st century. “We have had our problems with the houses of ill repute,” he said. “We want to make Dorset Street a safe, welcoming and prosperous place.”
Kelliher Miller Architects have designed a plan for the street which would see a reallocation of road space to widen footpaths and create cycle lanes, the provision of pull-in parking and the elimination of the central concrete median.
The plan also envisages the revamp of shopfronts to remove poor quality additions and restore historic fabric where possible, and the reuse of vacant buildings and the vacant upper floors of buildings.
The plan proposes branding the street as a culinary destination, architect Tania Miller said. "There are still a lot of grocery shops in the area, and the street is also a direct route in from the farms of north Dublin to the markets of the city.
“One of Dublin’s best restaurants Chapter One is just around the corner. Why couldn’t Dorset Street become a hub of culinary excellence?”
The street has retained a lot of its original fabric, but a many buildings are vacant and underutilised, fellow architect Katherine Kelliher said. "A lot of things that people might see as big problems are not hard to fix. Scratch under the surface and there are fantastic opportunities in what we pass every day."
Lord Mayor Nial Ring said he is fully behind the project. "Dorset Street was originally Slighe Midh-Luchra, one of the five great roads of ancient Ireland, I'm confident it can be a great road of Ireland again."