2019 has been an eventful year for The Liberties and wider Dublin 8. With a swathe of new developments transforming the streets in the area, new parks and greeing initiatives enhancing amenity and quality of life, and a packed programme of events and activities enriching social and community life in the area, The Liberties is undoubtedly one of the most exciting locations in the city in which to live, work or visit.
Take a look back at some of the big improvements to the area of the past year…
Two newly refurbished parks were unveiled in The Liberties in 2019. At St Audoen’s, the old park layout was transformed with new play features, stunning landscaping, a new terraced entrance and a forecourt to the main tower of St Audoen’s Church. A number of archaeological features, uncovered during the works were set into the new landscaping, including remants of an old alley that run here to the city wall called Keysers Lane. At the west end of the park, a commemorative play garden recalls the children who lost their lives in the events of Easter 1916. It was unveiled in the Spring by Minister Katherine Zappone and broadcaster Joe Duffy.
Nearby a second forgotten space – Peace Park – was reinaugurated with a new layout and central decorative lawn sown with soil donated by the Government of Flanders in Belgium as a marker of the centenary of the end of WWI. The suntrap was popular spot to while away an hour in the summer.
At Christ Church Cathedral, the refurbished cathedral garth was unveiled, with its paved labyrinth, seating areas, and a new balcony overlooking the space, accessed via newly-restored former carriage gates of the cathedral. The Dubline-funded project greatly improves the setting for this historic building.
Work was completed on the greening of the central median along High Street and Cornmarket with new trees and holly hedging. Together with the new parks and the many tree planters that line the route, it now makes a visually impressive entrance into The Liberties.
The greening initiatives continued elsewhere: small touches that add greater quality of life to the area. New planters bringing trees to prevously treeless streets, programmes to refurbish two historic graveyards – St James’s and St Catherine’ Park, a ‘de-paving’ project at Marrowbone Lane that will see 14 new trees planted.
Care and attention to the heritage of the area also marked the year. Work was completed on the conservation of a 17thC wall at St Catherine’s Graveyard, safeguarding this ancient feature for the future and greatly enhancing the park and adjoining lane.
At James’s Street, the Rutland Obelisk, erected at this site in 1790, received some much needed tlc, including the cleaning of its stonework and the repainting of its cast iron base. The layers of paint removed revealed past colour choices of black, mustard, bright red, green and white. The monument is now a punchy rusty red.
Work was fully completed on a major conservation plan for the former St Luke’s Church at Newmarket. Now known as Thomas Burgh House, the building was sympathetically repurposed in 2018 as offices, including an innovative building within a building structure. This year, a lovely public terrace to the front of the building was unveiled. Meanwhile the small churchyard to the south of the church has also been restored as a more private space.
Another church, St Catherine’s on Thomas Street, celebrated its 250th anniversary this year. As part of the congregations celebrations, the church undertook conservation work on is belfry and restores one of the oldest public clocks in the city back to use.
Businesses have been playing their part to revitalise the streets of The Liberties and create a more attractive area to enjoy. This year the Shopfront Improvement Scheme – which has been running since 2015 – supported over 20 projects across the area. Projects included Amber Grill and Daphne’s Restaurant in Rialto, the Fumbally Exchange which had newly recamped to the Blackpitts, a spruce up for Manning Bakery and Artisan Brew Academy on Thomas Street, and an ongoing project to restore old shopfronts on Francis Street and Meath Street. In all over €180,000 of investment in premises arose out of this year’s scheme.
The area also welcomed a host of new businesses. 11 new cafes and restaurants established in the streets of the area over the past 12 months. Thomas Street got its first Michelin star restaurant, Variety Jones at 78 Thomas Street, while the historic former Frawleys shopfront is the new home to Proof Pizza and Dublin’s first bombolino cafe. In Newmarket, the new Tenters Gastropub is the first of what will be more places to eat and relax in as this area develops. Nearby Rialto welcomed a new neighbourhood bistro, Daphne’s, while also on SCR The Circular Bar opened in November – brought to you by the team from Luckys of Meath Street.
Two new distilleries, over 700 new hotel rooms, a new story-telling attraction, and great new pubs and venues opening their doors: 2019 was a busy year indeed for the tourism and hospitality sector in The Liberties. The year started with the opening of the new Aloft Hotel at Blackpitts – a 200-room hotel with the best views in town. Aloft was joining in October by Hyatt Centric Hotel, the first Hyatt-branded hotel in Ireland. The new hotel at Dean Street boasts beautiful interiors with more than a nod to its historic location. Its even called Hyatt Centric – The Liberties Dublin!
The Irish whiskey revival in the area has truly taken off with two new attractions opening this year – the boutique Dublin Liberties Distillery on Mill Street and the Art Deco-inspired Roe & Co Distillery in the former powerstation on James Street. The new additions bring to 4 the number of distilleries in The Liberties and… we now have an actual Distilleries Trail!
The cathedrals continued to draw visitors in 2019. Both are in the process of major projects to enhance and protect these historic buildings. Christ Church Cathedral unveiled its new entrance garth to improve accessibility to the building, while St Patrick’s Cathedral embarked on a mammoth €9m refurbishment of its roof.
The year also saw the work at the Guinness Storehouse to double its famous Gravity Bar and build a new archive building. The new 360^ venue will be unveiled in March 2020.
Work commenced in September on a new housing development at Bonham Street. The 57-apartment scheme is being developed by Dublin City Council under its volumetric or ‘rapid-build’ programme. This is one of a number of schemes now underway across the area. Ground will be broken on a complex at Chamber Street in January, while over 30 apartments were unveiled in Spring by Focus Ireland at John’s Lane.
The new Bonham Street complex will overlook a spanking new park when it is completed n 2021. Bridgefoot Street Park is the second of two community park to be developed under The Liberties Greening Strategy. Work is set to start on the amenity in the new year.
There’s plenty to look forward to as we head into 2020.