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Area map "Historic Area Rejuvenation Project"

Street Life: Dublin (Irland)

Historic Area Rejuvenation Project

In March 1995 proposals for the rejuvenation of Dublin's Northwest Inner City were accepted by the Department of the Environment as a 'Major Initiative' for Dublin under the EU Programme for Urban & Village Renewal. Dublin Corporation set up the Historic Area Rejuvenation Project (HARP) team to implement these proposals. With the introduction by the Department of the Environment of the 1999 Urban Renewal Scheme, HARP took on the status of an Integrated Area Plan (IAP) along with 5 other areas in Dublin's City Centre to form the main thrust in urban regeneration policy for the City.

The HARP area comprises of some 109 hectares and stretches from O'Connell Street westwards to the National Museum at Collins Barracks as can seen on the map in figure 1. Dublin's Inner City had experienced severe decline between 1940 and 1985, which saw a decrease in inner city population of 40,000, a steady out migration of business activity to the suburbs, no private housing development since the 1940's resulting in an estimated 400 acres of land classified as either derelict or vacant by the mid 1980's. High unemployment and low educational attainment coupled with a poor standard of social housing were common socio-economic features of the population of the Inner City.
With the approval of HARP as an Integrated Area Plan, 25 sites were given tax designation, which offered the owners tax incentives to develop their properties. At present the benefits of the tax incentive scheme can be clearly seen in the area with many commercial, residential and mixed-use developments completed. A key requirement for the beneficiaries of tax designation is that there be a significant 'community gain' element to the project.
Tax designation is only one aspect of the HARP Integrated Area Plan, the other functions of the project include:
Maintaining a focus for the area to ensure the continuation of investment by promotion of the area as an attractive and viable business and enterprise location.
To improve the quality and appearance of public housing.
The improvement of the design and presentation of the public domain, examples of which include the Ormond Square and Smithfield (figure 4) projects.
The HARP team work closely with local groups to improve and upgrade the level of community and recreational facilities in the area, to date the team have successfully installed several units of play facilities, redeveloped two public parks and constructed a £4 million Community Resource Centre (see figure 2). The new Community Resource Centre provides facilities for senior citizens, community groups, youth groups and crèche.

The team continually strives to expand and consolidate the linkages between area-based employers and the agencies charged with delivery of local training and employment needs to ensure that opportunities for local residents are maximised.
One of the flagship projects of HARP was Smithfield Civic Space. As can be seen from figure 3 Smithfield had degenerated into a surface car park surrounded by dereliction. Smithfield is an area of Dublin steeped in history and was in desperate need of attention. The lands on either side of Smithfield Square had the benefit of tax designation. It was important to intervene in the public area to develop a design for the space, which was innovative, modern and practical. Dublin Corporation launched an architectural design competition. The winning submission involved the retention of the original cobbles, granite slabs running diagonally and the installation of twelve 26 metre high lighting masts to illuminate the space.
Smithfield is the largest open urban space within the city with an area of 1300 square metres. The redevelopment was implemented at a cost of £3.5 million (50% funded by the EU and 50% funded by Dublin Corporation). Over 300,000 cobbles were lifted and cleaned by hand and re-laid. Strips of granite paving were laid diagonally across the space to frame the cobbled surface. Each of the 26 metre high lighting masts required a 30m3 concrete base to support them. Concealed uplighters direct light onto powder coated aluminium sails, which fill the space with soft, indirect light which adds to the atmosphere of the space at night. Unique gas braziers were developed in conjunction with British Gas Technology, top the lighting masts. The braziers burn with 2 metre high flames and can be seen from all over the City acting as a beacon for the area.
At present the East Side of Smithfield Civic Space (figure 5) - the former Jameson Distillery buildings - has been refurbished/redeveloped to provide a mixed-use development through private investment assisted with the benefits of tax designation. The complex, which was completed in 1998, incorporates apartments, retail units, offices and several cultural amenities. The complex also houses a hotel, bar, restaurants and Smithfield Viewing Tower. The Viewing Tower was constructed utilising the original distillery chimney and offers unparalleled panoramic views of Dublin City. The Jameson Distillery Museum is located within this development and attracts approx. 150,000 visitors per year.
Planning permission has been granted for the redevelopment of the West Side of Smithfield with a similar mixed-use project. The £120 million development will include a hotel, cafes, apartments and a leisure centre. This private development is scheduled to commence in late 2001 and when completed together with the advent of the Light Rail System (LUAS) which will cross the southern end of Smithfield will realise the full potential of the regeneration of the Smithfield area.

A space such as Smithfield must be managed efficiently and to this end a separate management unit has been established within Dublin Corporation to fulfil this role. A forum consisting of business and residents representatives of the area meet on a regular basis. The space has been used successfully for a range of activities such as music, sporting, cultural and civic events. The Smithfield Horse Fair is held here which is unique to Dublin, as it is the only horse fair to take place within the boundaries of a city in Europe. A working group of representatives of all interested parties related to the horse fair was formed to facilitate the continuance of a managed fair, which takes place on the first Sunday of each month. The group consisting of the Garda Siochana, DSPCA (an animal rights society) and Dublin Corporation staff have been working together to improve conditions at the horse fair and ensure the safety of the participants.
New uses are continually being considered for the space, some of which will be realised over the next 12 months. As the area has been associated with market trading for generations it is being considered to bring open air markets to the space in an organised format and in full consultation with local residents' groups. Such uses serve to protect and conserve the heritage of the locality. The Smithfield area is a valuable tourism asset to the city in the form of the Jameson Whiskey Museum and the Smithfield Viewing Tower. These recently developed amenities complement the areas' natural heritage and historical sights.
The HARP area has benefited substantially from private inward investment, which together with public investment has made a significant impact on levels of dereliction and vacancy. The level of economic activity has been consolidated and expanded into areas formerly characterised by urban blight. A new population has been attracted to the area as a result of new private housing schemes. The existing population has benefited from a programme of improvements to social housing and community/recreational facilities. Levels of unemployment have decreased substantially and the problems arising from low educational attainment and substance abuse are now being tackled on a planned, integrated basis.

Community Resource Centre Smithfield, old situation Smithfield, new situation Smithfield, now