Proposals to refurbish Meath Street have been approved by Dublin city councillors.
The Meath Street Public Realm Improvement Scheme will see footpaths widened; more space allocated to pedestrians and a wider range of street uses such as outdoor seating and street markets; and the addition of trees, landscaping and public seating to the street.
Mirroring the work completed this year on neighbouring Francis Street, the scheme will retain through traffic on the street but reduce the width of the carriageway to a single lane for the majority of the street. This will allow footpaths to be widened to 4m in parts, greatly increasing and improving pedestrian space and allowing trees and seats to be added.
The project has been in development since 2018, when initial ideas to enhance the street were broached with local businesses and the community. Since then the design has been refined and developed to reflect, as far as practicable, the wide range of opinions as to how the street should change. A public consultation on the final design was undertaken in August and September, with almost 230 submissions recieved, many of them detailed.
Speaking for the design team, Stephen Coyne of Dublin City Council said: “the submissions ranged from hugely supportive of the scheme to a small number of submissions dead set against change. However in the middle, local residents and businesses all raised concerns, offered support and ideas, or requested specific practical changes to the plan. In the next stage of the project – called detailed design – we’ll go through all these submissions and see how we can refine the scheme to ensure as many people as possible feel their inputs have been reflected in the finished street.”
Best known as one of Dublin’s traditional market streets, the design looks to encourage a rejuvenation of market life on Meath Street, with new widened footpaths being used for occasional street market events, or even casual trading pitches if there is demand. Coyne: “We’re suggesting that small electrical points can be installed to service events and provide power sources for stall lights. Its something you commonly see in the UK and on the continent, so why not in Dublin. Potential markets will be clustered close to the existing Liberty Market and would help to draw a whole new audience to Meath Street. At a time when retail and ‘bricks-and-mortar’ shops are struggling to compete with changing shopping habits and online retailing, streets like Meath Street, which are outside the traditional retail core, need to find a new direction and draw in new uses and ideas. That’s not just down to the Council, its really up to the street’s business community”
One trend that the street has seen in recent years, is a growth in cafes and places to eat, and the refurbishment of the street’s pubs and bars. This in turn has seen requests for outside terraces and seats on the street, which the redesign has sought to accommodate.
Improving the environment of the street is also an important objective. Following on from the greening of Francis Street, where 19 trees were added to the street, it’s hoped to plant a similar number of trees on Meath Street. Coupled with a tree planting expected to be installed on Carman’s Hall in spring 2024, the landscaping measures will mean a dramatic increase in tree cover on the main commercial streets of The Liberties. “We’ll hear less of the ‘concrete jungle’ that some people complain of about the area.”
The last few months of the project have been contentious, but it has also gotten people thinking about the future of Meath Street and the role the street should have in the life of the city. The investment in public realm is intended to encourage those who own buildings and businesses along street, or who live above shops and businesses, to also invest in the street’s future.
With the conclusion of the Part VIII, it’s now planned to develop the scheme in detail over 2024 and tender for construction by the end of next year. “With a fair wind, we should start construction of the project in 2025 and it will likely take 12-18 months to complete, working in stages along the street so that disturbance is minimised. When its completed, we’ll be able to look at the three principle streets of The Liberties – Thomas & James Street, Francis Street and Meath Street, all with significantly enhanced public realm; as places for people to linger, relax and enjoy the street; with less dominance of cars and parking; and with, hopefully, more confidence to invest in the buildings and businesses of these streets that make them special and different.”