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'A private company is not a community service': Council asks for ideas on how to redevelop Fruit & Vegetable Market amid Councillor concerns

The Fruit & Vegetable Market, located off Capel Street on Dublin’s Northside, closed last year after 127 years of wholesale trading.

Artist's impression of refurbished market interior.
Artist's impression of refurbished market interior.
Image: Dublin City Council

DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL is asking interested parties for ideas on how to redevelop Dublin’s Fruit & Vegetable Market to provide an indoor retail food space similar to Cork’s historic English Market. 

The Fruit & Vegetable Market, located off Capel Street on Dublin’s Northside, closed last year after 127 years of wholesale trading. 

The council – which owns the building – plans to issue a tender to a private operator for the future management of the redeveloped space. 

But first it’s asking for “industry views” on how best to redevelop a “re-imagined market that will respect its past and showcase the best of Irish food producers”. 

Since its closure, it has been suggested that the Victorian redbrick building near Smithfield could be turned into Dublin’s equivalent of Cork’s English Market. 

The Council says that it now wants to see if there’s an “appetite” for businesses to work with it to redevelop the market and identify models which may work. 

It foresees that whoever is chosen to run the market will also be responsible for its refurbishment. 

download (4) Smithfield Fruit & Vegetable Market opened in 1892. Source: Google Maps

Councillors earlier this year raised concerns that if renovation and operation are taken over by a private contractor then small-scale providers could be priced out under any redevelopment. 

Green Party Councillor Sophie Nicoullaud told TheJournal.ie that if the market is operated by a private company then it could squeeze out potential smaller producers. 

“I don’t consider a private company as being a community service,” she said. “We really should be more innovative and make sure it remains public, that it remains a service and it doesn’t become a market that’s going to serve gentrification.”

As part of the Programme for Government, the Fianna Fail-Fine Gael-Green Party coalition said it plans to support Local Authorities to expand the number of “farmers’ markets, farm shops and food emporiums” during its term and to “support the formation of community-owned markets in all towns, showcasing local food produce from local farmers, growers, and food producers.”

Nicoullaud said that Dublin City Council should instead look to develop the Fruit & Vegetable to ensure it remains a community asset and in public ownership, similar to Cork’s English Market, which is run by Cork City Council. 

Opened in 1892 to facilitate Dublin’s market traders, Dublin City Council closed the wholesale market – which sits between Capel Street and Church Street – last August with the final eight traders relocated. 

The Council was granted planning permission for the refurbishment of the building on Mary’s Lane in Dublin 7 in 2015. In recent years, the council has pressed ahead with plans for the historic market.

Last year, Dublin City Council assistant chief executive Richard Shakespeare told a meeting of councillors: “People talk about the English Market in Cork, but we want a market with a quintessential Dublin feel. Something with a little bit of the magic dust of Dublin.

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“Having this site in the middle of an area that is on the cusp of regeneration could kickstart the redevelopment of the whole area, really improving the quality of life locally.”

Dublin City Council is looking for industry views on how to redevelop the market until next Thursday. 

“This will be an exciting vibrant community of food producers, food for now and fresh produce,” said.

“It will have an ethos of direct linkages between production and consumer, as well as an international element.

“The building, its operating systems and its market traders will work to strong eco credentials minimising environmental impact and promoting such values.”

The Council estimates that works on the building are expected to take around 18 months and that redevelopment could cost €3 million once an operator is selected. 

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