AS RENTS AND house prices continue to rise in Dublin City, the lack of housing supply continues to make an impact.
It is now time that we made better use of under used lands close to the city centre. That is why the Green Party is proposing that we regenerate lands at Broadstone in Phibsborough and Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines.
Both sites are located within walking distance of centre Dublin and could provide land for thousands of decent homes for those most in need.
Cities must adapt or die
Cities must adapt or die if they don’t meet the needs of the people they serve.
Twenty years ago an ambitious master plan was approved for the Dublin Docklands. This led to thousands of homes and jobs being provided in an area of the city that was scarred by dereliction. We now need to look at other under-used State-owned lands and consider the development of similar sites elsewhere in the city.
These range from railyards to car parks, but these two sites controlled by the State could provide thousands of new homes. Not only would development be located within walking distance of schools, shops, pubs and churches, the sites also have the potential to provide sports, recreation and jobs for the wider community.
The Broadstone site, just south of Phibsborough is oozing with potential. The old railway station, closed to passenger traffic in the 1930s, and now serves as the headquarters of Bus Éireann. The surrounding lands are used for bus maintenance and parking.
Regenerating the south Phibsborough area
The station terminus was designed by John Skipton Mulvany and opened in 1850. The late architectural historian Maurice Craig said it is:
the last building in Dublin to partake of the sublime. It stands on rising ground, and the traveller who sees it for the first time, so unexpected in its massive amplitude, feels a little as he might if he were to stumble unawares upon the monstrous silences
of Karnak or Luxor… Much of the poetry of travel perished when the Broadstone was abandoned.
Both the building itself and the wonderful granite colonnade alongside could underpin the regeneration of this part of the city. With not one, but two newly opened Luas stations on the Green line, and the new DIT campus at Grangegorman alongside they are well placed for revitalisation.
It is now time that Minister Ross took an interest in the area’s regeneration, and moved bus depots such as these out to beside the M50 where they can better serve their staff, and customers.
Currently in the early morning bus drivers travel into town by car in order to drive buses out of town to suburban terminuses for the first bus of the day. It would be far better if such bus depots were moved out of city centre locations.
The Harristown Bus Depot near Dublin Airport shows how this can be achieved. In my day job lecturing at the Dublin Institute of Technology my students in Urban Regeneration showed that sites like these could provide new homes and spearhead the redevelopment of such areas.
Cathal Brugha Barracks
Cathal Brugha Barracks in Rathmines could also contribute towards tackling the housing crisis. Many of the buildings are in poor condition, and the site needs investment regardless of whether the defence forces stay on site or move. The question has to be asked though: do we need to have two military barracks in Dublin?
This could be an opportunity to move our soldiers and staff to the Curragh, and upgrade facilities there. This would then release a magnificent sixteen hectare (forty acre) site close to the city centre.
It also could house thousands of new residents and provide sports fields, parks and playgrounds in this part of the city. Clancy Barracks in Islandbridge set a precedent, and now houses hundreds of city residents in a well-designed environment on the south
side of the River Liffey.
Quality homes that would integrate people
Both Broadstone and Cathal Brugha Barracks could spearhead the government’s plans for new housing. Indeed they could act as a showpiece for a ‘cost-rental’ model of development that would provide quality homes that would integrate people on different incomes.
Instead of the segregated housing policies that we’ve had up to now this could provide quality housing for people from all walks of life. This could be an amazing opportunity to provide inclusive housing for all: from young families to empty nesters.
Master Plans should be developed for both of these sites, and a Regeneration Authority such as the Grangegorman Development Agency could be repurposed to guide their redevelopment.
Last week a Green Party motion before the Dáil proposed the redevelopment of the sites. With backing from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and others, the motion passed. Now, it’s up to the government to take this vision on board, and start delivering high quality, affordable housing solutions.
Ciaran Cuffe is a Green Party Dublin City Councillor and runsa an MSc in Urban Regeneration at the Dublin Institute of Technology.