On Tuesday, Eoin Morris, wearing a navy jacket, strode between areas, looking at the ground in front of the derelict pub, Matt’s of Cabra, which this time last year had been covered with rubbish and soot, but is now cleared.
Morris has been coming back here every few days to prepare the site on Faussagh Avenue for a farmer’s market he plans to open gently two weeks from now.
People regularly rubberneck or pause to chat to find out what’s going on, he says. “In fact, it’s quite hard to get a lot of work done because so many people stop.”
His answer seems to perk them up, he says. “That piques a bit of interest. As in, a farmer’s market? Here?”
Locals and councillors say they’ll be watching to see whether a farmer’s market will work here – but that, ultimately, they’d rather see the site built out long-term.
On 9 June, An Bord Pleanala rejected a planning application for 117 built-to-rent homes by R&D Developments Limited because, among other reasons, of the design of the apartments and internal layout, without enough daylight.
A Vacant Site
Morris, leaning on the green fence around the site, says that he was chosen to use the plot after he reached out to a post on Twitter by Adrian Shanahan.
“A client of mine has great spot in Cabra, we will not be seeking rent for right venture. Want to see space used,” says the tweet.
Said Morris: “He’s been brilliant on behalf of his clients to even allow it.”
“I don’t know what’s in it for them. I can’t see anything that is in it for them from a financial or business perspective,” he said.
It would be rare to find a site like this, says Morris. “I would normally have to try and source this privately, as in go out looking for sites.”
“In fact, I’ve never seen this,” he says. “I’ve organised markets in other parts of Dublin, but I’ve never benefited from somebody saying look, you can have this space for seven days, and do what you want with it.”
The old pub building was boarded up last year due to risk of fire. It has been on the vacant sites register since 26 August 2019, said a council spokesperson on Tuesday.
A demand for payment of a vacant sites levy, based on 7 percent of the market value of the site, was served on the owners in 2021 in respect of 2020, said the spokesperson.
The owners of the site appealed this to An Bord Pleanála, they said, where it was upheld.
The owners then initiated a judicial review, they said, which is pending in the courts. “It is the Council’s position that while matters are pending before the courts, it is not appropriate to impose a Vacant Site Levy.”
But outside of that, temporary use of the site, for an activity such as a market, would not negate the application of the vacant sites levy, said the council spokesperson.
“In certain circumstances a site that is vacant may be used on a temporary short term or periodic ad hoc basis,” they said.
“For example a site may be used to host a monthly event such as a farmers market etc. A site that is vacant and used for such temporary purposes would not be considered as being in full and active use,” they said.
Morris, his feet scratching the gravel as he turns back to the building, says today he’s waiting for the electrician to come and get the place wired up for motion-sensor lights and CCTV.
He’d like to decorate the building in bunting and painted with a mural, he says.
Morris plans to have his own coffee stand, and other vendors vans selling pizza and street food, and any other vendors he can find in the meantime, he says.
Since he’s just paying a small fee to use the space, he wants to find community projects that can use it alongside the market, he says.
“A lot of the ideas are coming from the community, and I’m happy to take them, I only have so many ideas myself,” he says.
David Doyle stands in the light rain outside the site next to Phil Mull. They’re here to discuss ideas with Morris for how the members of Cabra for Youth can get involved.
Perhaps the kids could sell planters they’ve been making out of wooden pallets, or just decorate the area with them, says Doyle. “The lads could use some extra tips.”
Mull says they might also try to use the space as a motivator to get people into other activities like arts and crafts.
“We could generically get a ‘made in Cabra’ stamp, so young people could sell things that were made in the community, to people in the community. It would be a nice social enterprise for them anyway,” he says.
Doyle says people will do it if they’re interested. “We’re very much an interest-based kind of service, where we try and do what, we go with people’s interest. It can chop and change.”
Waiting and Watching
Walter Fogarty, on a walk up to the shops on Faussagh Avenue, says he finds the building a total eyesore when he walks by every day.
“Just can’t even look at it anymore,” he says. “The thing should just be taken down.”
Fogarty heard of the market going up, he says. “Sure let them at it, if they want, you know what I mean. They’re popping up everywhere, these markets.”
He says he might use it. “I’ll see what they’re selling, first.”
Esther Eastwood has heard they might be selling fruit and vegetables, like a farmer’s market, she says. “But we have a vegetable shop, up there like? That’ll probably do him out of business.”
Local councillors meanwhile say they’re keeping an eye on what happens and how it goes.
Seamas McGrattan, a Sinn Féin councillor, says he’ll see whether a market will work in the area. “You’ve a lot of shops around so it depends what sort of project is going there.”
“It’s good to see someone taking initiative and doing something on the site,” he says. “I’d wish any venture well, but I still think there needs to be long-term plans on the site.”
On 10 August, Dublin Fire Brigade said it had, overnight, tackled a “well developed” fire in the building.
McGrattan says he imagines the building will now have to be taken down. “I don’t know that, but I’d imagine from the scale of the fire that was there.”
Declan Meenagh, a Labour Party councillor, says he supports temporary use of the site.
“The Matt’s site shouldn’t have burnt down in the first place, and what we need is for a sustainable residential development on that site,” he said. But they’re nowhere close to that, he says.
[UPDATE: This article was updated on 7 September at 1.18pm, to note that Eoin Morris is paying a small fee to use the site.]