Photos by Lois Kapila

At the end of last year, some Dublin City Councillors said they were disappointed to hear that the council executive had put DCC Beta Projects on hold.

While Dublin City Council talks about citizen engagement, this initiative had actually been doing it, said Green Party Councillor Claire Byrne at the time.

Now, though, the project – which trialed solutions to several city grumbles – is being revived.

Over the coming months, a full-time dedicated section will be set up within the council, according to Shane Waring of the council’s City Architects division, who spearheaded DCC Beta Projects.

(In the past, the project was run during bits and pieces of staff time, evenings and weekends.)

They are finalising a budget for 2018, and once he is working on DCC Beta Projects full-time, from September, things will kick off properly, he said.

Trials within Trials

DCC Beta Projects was first started up as a trial by the City Architects department back in 2012 and ran for about three and a half years, before being put into hibernation in September 2015.

During the time it was active, those involved tested solutions to different city problems, in a limited way, with low risk, so that the council could see what worked and what didn’t before it leapt into anything.

It’s perhaps best known for the project that arranges for artists to paint the city’s previously dull and often grubby traffic boxes with colourful designs, or the bright-pink car-shaped cycle-parking, or the parklets that were set up in car-parking spaces.

Byrne of the Green Party said that she was determined to see the scheme revived.

“We had this brilliant initiative running when there was very little development happening in the city, and as soon as we entered into a developmental stage, we shelved it,” she says.

Byrne said she met with the city manager to talk about it. “I think, I convinced him of the value of the project. So he secured further funding for it, but he has also allocated a full-time team.”

It’s early days, but Byrne says that with a dedicated DCC Beta Projects division, the initiative will be more evolved.

“Now they’ll be working on it full-time with more dedicated staff and I hope there will be more money behind it,” she said.

Part of the vision for the revived DCC Beta Projects is to ramp up the opportunities for citizen engagement, says Byrne.

“It’s long-term goal is that you’ll have more localised streets and neighbourhoods getting involved, looking at solutions that are being trialed,” she says.

Come September, Waring and one other council staff member will get to work on researching new potential projects.

So it’s most likely going to be the new year before we see any concrete projects brought to the table. “But the city really needs this,” says Byrne.

Cónal Thomas is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer.

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