Grafton Quarter Improvements
Dublin City Council wants to improve footpaths, plant trees and add benches to the streets and laneways in between Dawson Street and Grafton Street, said Jill McGovern, a city council architect at a meeting of the South East Area Committee on Monday.
Parts of Anne Street South, Anne’s Lane, Duke Street and Duke Lane Lower are currently inaccessible and in need of improvement, said McGovern. (Some bits are pedestrianised.)
“Narrow footpaths, no safe route for pedestrians,” said McGovern, and the roads are congested with traffic and illegal parking.
“The public realm is a shambles, broken footpaths, poor quality surfaces, street clutter, a lack of uniformity and polish in such a prestigious part of the city centre,” McGovern said was a comment that came back from the local consultation.
The proposed works would be similar to public realm improvements done to Clarendon Row earlier this year, and Chatham Street in 2020, on the other side of Grafton Street, said McGovern.
In the council’s designs, footpaths would be widened. Benches, 17 trees, feature lighting, a water-bottle filling station, an art installation would be added, and some kind of play space would be added, she said.
“There isn’t much in the area for children, and we think if we can come up with a really innovative proposal for a play installation on that street, it would be super,” she said.
Delivery restrictions after 11am would be introduced, she said. “And reduce the amount of traffic in this area completely, with an eye to pedestrian priority.”
There would be some accessible parking spaces for blue badge cars, and the council has to retain access to a private office car park owned by the Royal Automobile Club on Duke Street, she said.
“Unfortunately, it’s not in our gift to prevent them from exiting their private property, or from entering it,” she said, so signage in the area will say “local access only”.
McGovern said there shouldn’t be more than 13 cars an hour driving through the area.
A €7.8 million budget for the project has been approved, which includes estimated inflation costs, she said, and the council plans to go to tender in November 2023, aiming to complete the project by December 2025.
Councillors said at the meeting that they were pleased with the proposals and were looking forward to its completion.
“I think it’s vital to maintain the momentum of this project, I’m fully supportive of it,” said Paddy McCartan, a Fine Gael councillor. “A well-designed project can increase both business and footfall, and all the advantages of it.”
Pat Dunne, an Independents 4 Change councillor, and Claire Byrne, a Green Party councillor, said the timelines seemed long.
“I don’t understand why it’s still going to take another three years to have this up and running,” said Byrne.
One-way on Fishamble Street
The council is proposing to make Fishamble Street, a narrow, uphill, curved street connecting Essex Quay and Lord Edward Street, a one-way street, said Claire French, a senior executive engineer for the council, at the South East Area Committee meeting on Monday.
A traffic survey found that over 24 hours, 3,349 vehicles travelled southbound up the road, while 247 travelled northbound. (The report says the opposite, but French corrected the traffic survey labels in the document during the meeting.)
The lack of space for two-way traffic on the narrow road causes issues, said French. “They cause lots of mounting of footpaths, the curbs are being torn up, and it’s just, it’s quite unsafe.”
There are so few vehicles travelling northbound that a two-way street isn’t needed, she said, so the proposal is to make the street one-way southbound.
The seven accessible parking spaces on the street will remain, she said. “We’ll put in some additional loading and maybe two or three additional car parking spaces.”
More cyclists use the road northbound than southbound, says French, since it is easier to go down the hill than up it.
Therefore there would also be a contra-flow cycle lane if the street is made one-way, she said. “Anyone who wanted to go up the hill can still do so, it would just be in the general traffic lane.”
Cyclists going southbound wishing for a less hilly climb also have the option of Parliament Street, or the new contra-flow bus lane on Winetavern Street, she said.
The council’s also proposing to widen the pedestrian crossing where Fishamble Street meets the junction of Lord Edward Street to four metres wide, said French.
Lots of tourists use this pedestrian crossing, she said. “But even aside from the number of tourists, it’s not adequate for the number of pedestrians that are there.”
Paddy McCartan, a Fine Gael councillor, said it makes sense to make the street one-way if most traffic is going in one direction.
Councillors agreed at the meeting for the council to do up a detailed design of the street, and do a local consultation of locals and businesses, early next year.
A Tourist Hostel in Crumlin
The South East Area Committee agreed to write to the council’s planning department about a planning application to change a community facility in Crumlin into a tourist hostel.
A change of use planning application for the St Agnes Convent was submitted by O’Dea and Moore Architects on August, on behalf of Peter Pfeffer.
Pat Dunne, an Independents 4 Change councillor, brought a motion to the South East Area Committee meeting Monday, asking that the committee recognise the importance of the former convent as an active community facility.
The building on Armagh Road in Crumlin is well used by the community, he said.
Currently, the building, a former convent for the Sisters of Charity, is used by the Hope Centre, a religious group.
“I do know from experience that they are open to allow other people use it for meetings and other activities,” said Dunne.
Dunne said he wants the council’s local area office, community development and planning departments to know that there is a demand for community space in the area, and if the Hope Centre were not using the building, other groups would have interest.
St Agnes’ Community Centre for Music and the Arts is across the road from the Hope Centre, and there is a doctor’s office and two schools on the same road.
The planning application requests to change the use of the building from a convent to tourist hostel with 104 beds, along with adding outdoor amenity space and an external glass-covered staircase to the building.
Aengus Ó Snodaigh, a Sinn Féin TD, and Máire Devine, a Sinn Féin councillor, said in an observation to the planning application that an increase in tourists to Crumlin would be welcomed by local businesses, but that the community should be consulted.
Councillors agreed that Dunne’s motion be submitted to the planning department, as a statement of the area committee.