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“This is a famous meeting place,” said Martin Barker last Friday, sat on a bench on the main plaza in Ballymun, dressed in a brown hat and jacket, and listening to Lyric FM on a small portable radio.
Everyone comes to the plaza to meet their friends, he says.
Barker lives nearby and comes here to sit outside almost every day, he says, but he hadn’t heard about Dublin City Council’s plans to revamp the public space.
He hopes they will still have benches afterwards, he says.
Dublin City Council has to carry out works to transform the plaza, which is formally called Cearnog an tSeachtar Laoch (Seven Heroes Square).
At last week’s meeting of the council’s North West Area Committee, local councillors heard that the council is moving to the next step of the planning process to spruce up the plaza.
The new plans show many more trees and greenery, an amphitheatre, seating, spaces for outdoor events and decorative elements – all coming together to make the plaza more like a park.
That sounds good, says Barker. “I’d love to see more trees. If it is a park it will get business for a cafe. A cafe would be good.”
All going well, works could start in a year, said Eddie O’Gara, landscape architect with Dublin City Council, at the meeting.
What Is the Plan?
The current plaza “does not create a distinct sense of place within Ballymun” and the new plaza will “act as a focal point”, says a report presented to councillors last week.
Planting trees will create shelter in “what is currently an open and windswept flat space”, says the report.
Social Democrats Councillor Mary Callaghan says the plaza is grand at the moment but the plan is to develop it into something quite special.
“The idea is to make a very beautiful focal point in the centre of Ballymun,” she says. “Like a mini park.”
“Visually something beautiful does uplift people and uplift a community,” she says.
The plans envisage a weekly market in the market space and a tea and coffee kiosk near the bus stop.
The council would move an existing sculpture to a more central place, and put in decorative stone benches and ornaments as well as flags hanging from feature street lights.
The idea is that the plaza could be used for lots of different things, the council’s report says. It would also have an outdoor performance space and the main path through the plaza would lead to the Axis Ballymun theatre entrance.
“It certainly sounded really, really promising,” says Niamh Ní Chonchubhair, the interim director of Axis Ballymun.
She went to a public consultation event in the civic centre a while back and was impressed with the designs, she says.
“It looks like the plaza is going to be reimagined in multiple ways, to serve the people living here and the people passing through,” says Ní Chonchubhair.
She welcomes the idea of a civic space and performance space and the emphasis on accessibility.
The plaza is well used at the moment. “It is certainly placed at the heart of Ballymun,” she says.
At the local area meeting on 15 June, Callaghan, the Social Democrats councillor, asked how much the revamp would cost.
O’Gara, the landscape architect with Dublin City Council, said €50,000 had been allocated for designs.
A couple of years ago there was an estimated construction cost of €1.2 million, he said. But construction costs have risen since then so that is “certainly out of date”.
A quantity surveyor is currently working on a new estimate, O’Gara said.
“For that amount of money, we would really need to be sure we are getting something fabulous for the community,” said Callaghan.
Fianna Fáil Councillor Keith Connolly asked about the timeline.
They’ve started the planning application process and that will take around three months, O’Gara.
After that the council will draw up documents to tender for the construction works, which could commence in around a year, he said. “Assuming everything lines up.”