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Report shows how historic Thomas St area could be regenerated

Dublin Civic Trust has published a new report on the regeneration of Thomas St, which is one of the most historic parts of Dublin. It emphasises restoring buildings and creating a greener, vibrant and welcoming area.

Part of Thomas St
Part of Thomas St
Image: Google Maps

ONE OF DUBLIN’S most historic streets could be on track to be renewed by Dublin City Council.

Thomas St has medieval origins and is the commercial heart of The Liberties, as well as home to the Guinness brewery and storehouse. Now a new report prepared by Dublin Civic Trust for Dublin City Council shows what could be done to regenerate the area.

Called Thomas Street: Improving the Public Face of an Historic City Centre Street, it is a 112-page document available to read online.

It gives a fascinating glimpse into the hidden history of this street, which is home to buildings such as the church of Saint Augustine and St John the Baptist (which has the highest steeple in Dublin city) as well as the National College of Art and Design and the Digital Hub.

Dublin Civic Trust says the area suffers from urban decay, but also acknowledges that there are limited funds for such a project. The study was commissioned by Dublin City Council.

DCT says the study is about bringing new energy to Thomas St, which has been a centre for commercial life in Dublin for centuries. The report notes the huge volume of tourists who pass through the area on the way to locations such as the the Guinness storehouse and Kilmainham jail.

The origins of Thomas St can be traced back to the first settlement of Dublin in Medieval times, but from the middle of the 20th century it began to decline. Today, there is a huge amount of derelict buildings, many of which are in fact protected. Behind the gaudy shop fronts, plastic signage and rendered brickwork are buildings which once played a big role in the development of Dublin as a bustling city.

The report has three strategic aims: the physical quality of the street; cultural life and tourism; and retail activity and the Market St.

It says that the economic value of the architectural heritage must be clearly articulated to property owners and businessess on the street, and that there should be a number of things put in place to do this. It emphasises the need for improved presentation of facades and says the council should seek the appropriate infill of damaged sections of streetscape and actively promote refurbishment and renewal of historic buildings.

(Google Maps)

It also encourages the retention and restoration of historic buildings, such as the Cash Converters building, where it suggests replacing signage, and removing paint from brickwork. The report also focuses on number 20 and 21 Thomas St, (above) which are two formerly gable-fronted ‘Dutch Billy’ buildings dating back to 1710 – 1735 . But both buildings have been altered by the removal of gable and roof structures, the loss of original windows and the application of render over brickwork. The artist’s version of the proposed restoration shows two buildings that would significantly add to the look of the street.

On other areas, it suggests building high quality residential apartments, while the Vicar St terrace – which is partly demolished – should be rebuilt.

The report says the council should promote high quality shopfronts and encourage a diversity of ground floor uses as well as the use of upper floors, the latter of which should be incentivised.

It emphasises the need to improve the quality of paving, street lighting and street furniture on the street, strengthening and enhancing the pedestrian links between the street and the city centre. Also mentioned is creating a green link from High St to James St, which could involve removing the median on High St.

The importance of tourism to the area means that tourism structures should be developed, including the creation of a new visitor attraction and a tourist trail. It also suggests restoring the Iveagh markets and engaging the NCAD and other stakeholders to create a retail ‘vibe’ for the street.

DCT says that people must feel safe at all stages through the route, while the balance between traffic and pedestrian should be weighted in favour of pedestrians.

It suggests the development of maps and new media apps for key character areas along the route to encourage visitors to go off the beaten path, and holding mini culture nights and similar events in the area.

It recommends the establishment of a facade restoration fund administered by the planning authority, where grant aid assistance is offered for facade and shop improvement work.

The report also looks at creating attractive places to sit on the street and developing a new Liberties Visitor Attraction for tourists.

It envisions a Thomas St of 2020 where restored facades of historic buildings along with sensitive infill has created “an attractive backdrop to this bustling shopping street with its historic churches and lively cafés, bars and restaurants”.

Read: Pedestrians to have priority over cars in new Dublin plan>

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