A very different future for Grand Canal Harbour

Work recommences on site to develop over 500 apartments, shops and services on the site of the historic canal harbour


Business, Life

The transformation of the former Grand Canal Harbour off James Street is one of the largest development project currently underway in Dublin 8. The site, which is owned by property company Marlet, is set to be developed with 550 apartments, shops and services, cafes, co-working spaces and amenity areas. The development is set out in six block ranging in height from three to thirteen stories and includes restoration of the historic harbour warehouse, which is a protected structure. A largely pedestrianised environment is envisaged, with a series of water features marking the former life of the site as a one-time bustling harbour.

Grand Canal Harbour was the original termination point of the Grand Canal in Dublin. Work to build the canal began in the 1750s with the ambition of connecting the Midlands to the city. One of its more prominent backers was the brewer Arthur Guinness.  However this ‘main line’ was quickly superceded by the Grand Canal spur, whihc brought canal barges directly through the city and to the docks and River Liffey (and this is the alignment of the canal we see in the city in the present day).  The old allignment remained in use until 1960, primarily serving the huge Guinness & Sons Brewery at St James’s Gate.  In 1971, the harbour and allignment was filled in and the harbour given over to light industrial sheds and workspaces. Only the curved harbour warehouse remained.

Plans to redevelop the site were submitted by Marlet in 2019. An earlier plan for offices, a hotel and a smaller number of apartments, dating from 2009, was abandoned for a more residentially-focused scheme.  The 550 apartments  – a mix of one and two-bedroom units – will be ‘build to rent’. The former warehouse will be extended via an atrium and will house a medical centre, a cafe and co-working spaces.

Recent significant excavation of the site had revealed the former harbour walls and other features of the harbour. However hopes that the harbour proper might be reinstated would be in vain.  The proposal from Marlet will see more modest water features and pools reflecting the historic use of the site.

A fly-through of the development by Marlet gives a good indication of how the scheme will look (source: www.marlet.ie).

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