Reimagining the capital

 

Sir, – Frank McDonald’s excellent article really reflected much of what I have been feeling about Dublin city centre (“Dublin could be heaven: Frank McDonald reimagines the capital”, Analysis, May 23rd).

I have been walking and drawing the streets for the last few months, and the city centre has been extraordinarily quiet, with just a few people walking past the boarded-up buildings.

Unlike many other cities, we have allowed our city centre to develop in an uneven manner, with commercial units being the mainstay of the streets.

I’m sure that Frank McDonald is correct in saying that there are many residential flats in Temple Bar which are empty due to their previous use as short-term holiday letting units.

Even before this crisis, there would seem to have been a great many empty shop units on Grafton Street and the surrounding streets.

We do not seem to learn from the urban planners that a mixed community – housing, shops, offices and cultural institutions – makes for a vibrant mix, one that has been missing for a while.

There are many fine in-fill developments but now is the time to stop and re-evaluate what we need to create a vibrant city centre. We need to cherish and repurpose city buildings, the quirky, the ugly and the beautiful, all of which make Dublin a unique place, one where people want to go to and spend time in. We need to look at reusing and redesigning the access to the upper floors so that they are accessible and safe as living spaces, while retaining the charm of Dublin town.

It can be done. One example is the Wexford Opera House, where a large theatre is hidden behind an existing streetscape. This theatre has enhanced rather than diminished the appeal of Wexford, with many foreign visitors returning again and again to a festival which won a best festival award in the Opera Festival Awards in 2018.

We have a unique city. We need to celebrate and promote our uniqueness by supporting businesses such as Weirs and Bewley’s, not in replica but in the ethos and thinking behind the brand.

Right now, we’re not thinking about tourists or large numbers so now is a time to pause, reflect and re-examine.

Our city should be about people; people of all ages, abilities and socio-economic backgrounds should be able to co-exist in living and working in the centre. – Yours, etc,

CAITRÍONA SHAFFREY,

Ranelagh, Dublin 6.