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You might have noticed more markets on Portobello Harbour over the last couple of summers.
With the help of Urban Markets, Dublin City Council has been testing out the space to see whether it’s a good spot for regular stalls.
“The Canalaphonic Music Festival showed that the space works as a public space,” said independent Councillor Ruairi McGinley, at the meeting of the South East Area Committee on Monday.
So local councillors have decided to push ahead with the idea of making it a “casual trading area“. That means, basically, there would be more markets and licensed street traders could sell in the area.
There would be some restrictions – probably no food or drink, so that local businesses aren’t undercut. But that would all be settled during the public consultation.
In Portobello on Friday, most people seemed to be in favour of the idea.
Amy El Fehli, manager of the Grove Road Café, which sits on the corner by Portobello Bridge, said she would welcome the area being redesignated.
“The markets bring in additional business and improve the atmosphere,” she said. “Having them here was a really positive development.”
El Fehli was particularly positive about the Canalaphonic Festival, which she says transformed the square and neighbourhood. “It was fantastic for the whole area – it was thronged and there was a great vibe.”
And while you might have expected them to be worried about food and drink being on sale and taking business away from them, that didn’t seem to happen, she said.
Local resident Jackie Hannifin said the same: “It brought a great vibe into the area and brightened the place up a lot.”
In any case, it might take a while for the regular markets to happen.
At the moment, one of the Dublin City Council subcommittees is working on a whole strategy for how to develop more markets in the city, and what kinds of things should be sold in them. The Portobello Harbour market will slot into that.
The markets are too similar at the moment, says independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, who is on the council’s Committee for Markets and Trading in the Public Domain.
“We need to create mixed markets, which sell a variety of high-quality goods and also attract people from a mixture of social-class backgrounds,” he said. “The milk market in Limerick is a good example of somewhere with a great atmosphere and a wide range of high-quality goods for sale.”
Rose Kenny, the council’s manager for the south-east area of the city, said the Portobello proposal would only go ahead if it were in line with the strategy decided on by that committee. If it were approved, there would then be a public consultation process so local residents and businesses could weigh in.
Flynn said putting together a good strategy for markets for the city could take a year, so redesignation of Portobello Harbour could take up to 18 months. In the meantime, there’ll still be the one-off uses from time to time.
The whole space is a disaster as a public space/square – you have to wonder who designs most of the public spaces in Dublin – they are all pretty terrible. This one is as bad as the dead open space beside City Hall on Dame Street; all concrete boxes and (deliberately I think) a uninviting oppressive atmosphere. You just would not want to sit there. The only ones that frequent the space daily are the homeless and drunks, as with the open concrete space in Rathmines.
I think it’s pretty clear there’s a design strategy in place to keep people from gathering at all – any Italians or French must certainly break their sides laughing at our poor efforts at the design and use of public space.
They should remove the concrete boxes no one sits on anyway to make more space for any market. Put seating in facing the water – that’s where everyone sits. And maybe a simple central gazebo design would encourage the use of the space for public performances etc.,
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