With work to build a new community park at Bridgefoot Street restarted and set to be completed later this year, the latest project of The Liberties Greening Strategy will add yet another high quality amenity space to a neighbourhood that has been dramatically enhanced over the past five years.
The Liberties Greening Strategy was unveiled by Dublin City Council in 2015 to provide an ongoing investment programme that would deliver new parks and amenities and improved public realm to The Liberties.
The area has a long-recognised deficit in green spaces and quality infrastructure; largely the result of historic built form of the area, which developed over the centuries as a dense network of streets and laneways and larger industrial compounds. As the city expanded and grew, particularly in the 18th & 19th centuries, open spaces became built over and the few green areas that did exist were mainly churchyards and graveyards. The first major green space to be developed in the area was St Patrick’s Park at the start of the 20th century, and parks in more recent decades have been created by repurposing former church grounds into amenities.
The Liberties Greening Strategy was developed for Dublin City Council by Áit Urbanism + Landscape and it set out to reverse the persistently low indices around access to public space and nature, tree cover and environmental services in what is one of the densest and most populous parts of the city. In its foreword the Strategy “puts forward a vision for a network of new urban parks, making accessible heritage green spaces and the refurbishment of existing green spaces and play areas. In addition, the strategy puts forward an area wide tree planting strategy which champions best practice and promotes innovation.”
The Greening Strategy … provides a platform to take stock of the existing urban condition and propose a long term strategy for its improvement and uplift and in particular consider opportunities to address the inadequacy of the area’s green space provision and public realm quality.
Among the projects provided for in the Strategy were: two new community parks in the area, one at Cork Street and the other at Bridgefoot Street; the revitalisation of existing parks and gardens such as St Audoen’s Park and St Patrick’s Park; major public realm projects to revitalise the main commercial streets and create a new destination public space at Newmarket; and street tree planting and landscaping projects to enhance streets and public spaces.
Five years on, the Strategy can be considered a success with many of its recommendations completed or under development. The award-winning Weaver Park opened in October 2017, following a community engagement process that helped to design an open plan park between Cork Street and Chamber Street. The park includes a skate bowl and play areas as well as attractive planted areas set around a central lawn. A similar community engagement process saw a winning design for Bridgefoot Street Park – with the new amenity currently under construction and set to open in spring 2021. A larger space than Weaver Park, this amenity will include play areas, a community garden, a terrace that will allow for activities and performances, and a landscape that will appeal to the many residents living close by.
Existing parks have also been imaginatively redesigned: St Audoen’s Park at High Street with its remnants of Dublin’s old city walls, now includes a memorial garden to children who lost their lives in the events of Easter 1916; Peace Park at Christchurch Place, long closed, is now a beautiful peaceful enclave along the busy Dubline route; St Patrick’s Park, one of the city’s finest Victorian garden parks with its array of fine sculptures, and a new sunny terrace park at St Luke’s Avenue in front of the newly restored former St Luke’s Church (Thomas Burgh House).
Other projects include: enhancements to Pimlico, including a new landscaped area at Marrowbone Lane bringing trees and greenery to the area; ongoing conservation projects at St Catherine’s Park off Thomas Street and the historic St James Graveyard on James Street; and the greening of key routes through the area including Patrick Street-Nicholas Street and High Street and Cornmarket. Almost 100 tree and flower planters now line the route from Christchurch Cathedral to the obelisk at James Street, creating a much-enhanced public realm.
Street enhancements also formed a major part of The Liberties Greening Strategy, and the incorporation of greater pedestrian space, trees and landscaping and sustainable urban drainage into street works is a key objective of the Strategy.
Francis Street, which will shortly undergo a much-needed revamp, will have generous new pavements and new trees and underplanted areas added to the street. Plans are being progressed for Newmarket and its environs including a new pedestrised public space, while its also planned to upgrade Meath Street in coming years.
Street tree planting is regularly highlighted as one of the top measures that would enhance quality of life in Dublin. Efforts have been made to plant more trees in The Liberties including replacing failing trees and unsuitable trees with more robust species.
While Cork Street and St Luke’s Avenue is acknowledged as a rather bleak vehicular route, new trees have been added here, and there are plans to add more under a ‘greening plan’ to be developed for the street to enhance its public realm and urban landscape. A project at Reuben Street, later this summer, will see new ‘in street’ tree pits added, setting an example of how other streets can be reimagined with planting.
There is plenty of work yet to do. Dublin City Council Parks & Landscaping Service, who have delivered many of the projects, is developing a masterplan for the linear parkland at St James’s Walk, with the expectation to deliver elements of the park in stages, focusing firstly on Fatima and then completing the area in front of the new National Children’s Hospital in 2023. A new public space at Vicar Street is planned, while the historic Cabbage Garden off Kevin Street is also in line for improvements. Meanwhile Bridgefoot Street will be improved with a new lushly-planted green median, complementing the new park. The nearby regeneration area of St Teresa’s Garden’s/ South Circular Road will see a new municipal playing pitch delivered and new parklands. In the longer term, the expansion of St Catherine’s sports complex on Marrowbone Lane is also planned.
The Strategy has also seen many small-scale improvements to the area which taken together enhance quality of life and the overall attractiveness of The Liberties. Street planters, new trees, flower beds, better lighting, new cycle facilities and upgraded playgrounds all have a positive impact on the area. The Liberties has some thriving allotments including facilities developed at Braithwaite Street, St Thomas Abbey and Flanagan’s Field.
A major focus of the next few years will be to significantly increase the amount of street trees in The Liberties, while the Council will also support local communities as they work to enhance and maintain their areas and local amenities.
Over the last five years, it is estimated that in excess of €15m has been invested in greening projects in the area and the investment continues. In just five years, this innovative strategy has delivered real and tangible benefits to residents and greatly enhanced quality of life.
Find out more about Parks & Amenities in The Liberties.
Read the Liberties Greening Strategy.