Dublin City Council plans to revamp the streets around the Victorian Fruit and Vegetable Market in the north inner-city, to make it more pedestrian-friendly.
A presentation to councillors on 10 October shows wider footpaths, more trees, and also more cycle routes and new public spaces with seating.
Mary’s Lane would get a new plaza, seating and cycle parking. And St Michan’s Park on Halston Street, and Greek Street, would also see particular attention and upgrades.
The market building itself is supposed to undergo major refurbishment, but that could take years, a council official has already said.
So, it expects to push ahead with plans to improve the surrounding area first, according to a presentation to local councillors on 10 October.
“It covers what we would like to see for the area: an enhanced pedestrian environment, improved fabric, widening of pavements,” says Siobhan Maher, administrative officer with the council.
Councillors welcomed the proposals, which will go out to public consultation.
But there is concern about some of the possible impact. A fruit and vegetable wholesaler on Mary’s Lane says he can’t imagine how the plans would work for the businesses there.
The proposal places a plaza between his shop and his storeroom and appears to remove a loading bay used by three wholesale fruit and veg businesses.
“We will not be able to do business if there are people sitting on benches outside our store,” said Maurice Lawlor, owner of H. Lawlor & Co Ltd.
At the council meeting
At a meeting of councillors for the Central Area on 10 October, Maher and Claire Farren, an architect with Dublin City Council, outlined the plans to revamp a large area around the market.
“To give it a more uniform delivery,” says Farren.
The proposals cover a 23.5-hectare square of that part of the city, bounded by North King Street in the north and the quays in the south, and stretching from Church Street in the west to Capel Street in the east.
The council has funding through the central government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund up to 2030, says Maher.
First up would be works on Mary’s Lane, including the proposed new plaza, and pedestrianising part of Little Mary Street, the plans show.
Later stages would upgrade St Michan’s Park on Halston Street and see works on Greek Street, including tree planting, according to the presentation. They wouldn’t take out any parking spaces on Greek Street, said Maher.
The proposals will go out to community consultation, she said, before the council applies to itself for planning permission, through what’s known as the Part 8 process.
“I really welcome the consultation with the community and local stakeholders, before any Part 8,” says independent Councillor Cieran Perry. He asked what was happening with the old market building itself.
Maher said that a design team is working on a tender for the conservation works for the market building. That should be ready in December or January, she said.
Conservation surveys are often delayed at the moment, she said. Firms aren’t available to do the work, said Maher.
Redeveloping the market building is, of course, key to the area, Maher says. “In terms of the new uses it would bring, the increased footfall and animation of the property itself.”
Green Party Councillor Janet Horner welcomed the proposals. But why is the large surface car park opposite the market building being kept? she asked. “To my mind, it’s a very poor use of space.”
Maher said that the car park is needed at the beginning to get the market off the ground. “It is anticipated that we will need it for two to three years after the opening of the market building.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Janice Boylan says the area needs a traffic-management plan.
“The plan is brilliant,” she said. “I think it is going to work wonders for the area as long as it is done in consultation with the very active community that are down there at the moment.”
On Mary’s Lane
In front of the market on Mary’s Lane on Monday, there are boxes of bananas and tomatoes piled on crates, sacks of spuds and stacks of massive orange pumpkins in a loading bay.
A man driving a forklift carries crates of fruit and veg from H. Lawlor & Co’s storeroom beside the market to the shop across the road.
At a desk in the shop looking out onto the road, Maurice Lawlor says his great-grandfather had worked in the market when it opened in the 1800s. “We would have been there from the very, very start of the market.”
Even before the market was built, his great-grandfather traded in a field in this area, he says.
Lawlor was surprised to hear of the council’s proposal, he said, and that it envisages a plaza between his main shop and his storeroom across the road, which is beside the market building.
The plaza appears to take space from the existing loading bay, which is currently used by his business and the other two neighbouring wholesalers.
“It’s time they start talking to the people in the area, the ratepayers,” says Lawlor, shaking his head.
The council’s plan talks about regenerating the public streets and spaces in the area, and making it easier to walk around.
As Lawlor sees it, he says, making traffic on Mary’s Lane one-way would not be workable. “The traffic is chaos and to make that street one-way would be impossible.”
He delivers fresh fruit and vegetables to restaurants, shops and hotels all over the city, he says. A delivery that used to take 15 or 20 minutes now takes an hour and a half in the morning, he says.
Lawlor says he would like to see the market building used again for retail and tourism. He fears it is decaying and could end up like the Iveagh Markets, he says.
The Iveagh Markets, on Francis Street in the south inner-city, were first leased to publican Martin Keane in 1997, but he has failed to redevelop it and there is an ongoing legal dispute over the future of the building. Meanwhile, it’s just sitting there vacant, crumbling.
“Look at all the trees growing out of it,” Lawlor says. “It’s a shame because that is such a beautiful building.”
According to the council’s capital plan, the fruit and veg market, on the north side, needs structural works – refurbishment and conservation of outbuildings, new toilets, a café or restaurant, and storage and waste facilities.
The council set aside €7.4 million to renovate the Victorian market in 2023 and 2024, according to its capital programme for 2023–2025.
But renovating the building will take years, according to a council memo issued in June 2022.