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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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'O'Connell Street should be a place people want to get to rather than get through'

Clerys’ shutters came down for the final time on 12 June 2015 – and today a memorial was held for the store.

A SINGLE BOUQUET of flowers lay by the shuttered doors of Clerys Department Store on Dublin’s O’Connell Street this afternoon.

The gesture was made to commemorate three years since the iconic retailer’s ‘passing’.

Clerys closed down on 12 June 2015 but such was its place in Dubliners’ minds, a memorial was held today by the O’Connell Street Revival Society to mark the anniversary.

The society was formed in April 2018 by residents and people who work in the area with a joint aim of restoring O’Connell Street to its former glory as a go-to shopping district.

”Our main street looks as if it is in tatters,” John Seery, policy and research director of the society, told TheJournal.ie.

“It needs revival and that’s the whole point of this memorial today.
imageFlowers to mark the third anniversary of the closure of ClerysSource: Adam Daly
''We’re not here to shout and condemn the property owners. We’re actually quite sad that people are happy to sit on buildings for such a long time.

''Clerys is three years empty now and our concern is that it will go the same way as the Carlton cinema - another 20 years, another derelict building on O’Connell Street.''

Seery says that the society wants to see O'Connell Street as a place people want to "get to rather than get through".

''O’Connell Street was originally a residential street, then became a commercial street, and now it's becoming a derelict street.''

Earlier this year, the Irish Independent reported that the new owners - Natrium, which closed the store after it acquired the business in 2015 for €29 million - had engaged the services of property agents to secure tenants. The newspaper also wrote that a hotel operator and retailers were being sought, and that the redevelopment plans were "proceeding apace".

In December 2016, Dublin City Council granted planning permission to a project which would see an extra rooftop level added to the main Clerys building and a hotel, shops, office space and restaurants opened on the site.

PastedImage-9768 A new-look Clerys as shown on planning documents Source: Henry J Lyons Architects

A member of the society, citing that there were similar plans for the Carlton cinema, said that they are still concerned that Clerys will be sold again or remain empty, continuing the 'downturn' of the street.

''There used to be a lot of independent retailers and boutiques and the street had a good reputation, but that's not the case now.

'We feel Clerys is a monument to the problems of the street, the fact that this was once the preeminent department store in Dublin.

''There’s no indication of when it is likely to be redeveloped, despite what has been said in the media.''

The plan

The society hopes that today's memorial will create a wider public awareness of the problems on O'Connell Street.

It says there are currently too many derelict buildings, fast food restaurants and businesses that are inappropriate for ''the main street of Ireland''.

''We’re not expecting an overnight change in fortunes in the street. This is going to be a long protest. We do feel that there is a definite need to do something to improve the street,'' a member of the society said.

IMAG0176 Members of the O'Connell Street Revival Society marking the third anniversary of Clerys closure. Source: Adam Daly

Earlier this year, a number of items of historical interest from Clerys were auctioned at the Heritage Hotel in Laois. They included the original cheques from the sale of shares in the historic department store building, as well as old photographs, office journals and the store record book going back 150 years.

A billion-euro 'park in the sky' 

Previous plans for the area, made during the Celtic Tiger era, have been shelved.

The Dublin central scheme was a proposal by developer Joe O’Reilly to transform O’Connell Street.

The huge project was to be located on a 5.5-acre site bounded by Parnell Street, O’Connell Street, Henry Street and Moore Street.

As many as 100 shops were to be created, and it was envisaged that it would attract high-end retailers, like Prada and Armani.

The centrepiece of the project was to be a ‘park in the sky’. A 12-storey, triangular building that housed 40 apartments would include a feature on its sloped roof, from which punters could gaze across the city at a height of 50 metres through glass walls.

Over 3,000 permanent jobs were expected to be created during the project, which was initially set to cost more than €1 billion.

The project ran into trouble after a number of objections and during the recession when O’Reilly’s loans were transferred into Nama, in 2010.

With reporting by Fora.ie

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Adam Daly

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