It’s certainly the case that poor Cork Street will never be reckoned amongst the city’s finer streets. The 40+ year debacle of widening the thoroughfare and building the infamous Coombe Bypass – a sorry tale which lasted until the early 2000s – left a huge challenge of how to rebuild and remake this city street.
Undeniably misguided, the roadway now is overly wide and underused (although it is planned to make much greater use of the street under Busconnects with higher frequency bus services and segregated cycleways). Cork Street still feels unfinished: it remains in need of significant greening, as well as further investment to build out vacant sites and refurbish its older building stock.
The first wave of building after the completion of the bypass – christened St Luke’s Avenue – included some top name architects developing high profile schemes such as the striking Timberyard by O’Donnell + Toomey Architects and the impressive new St Brigid’s Primary School by McCullough Mulvin. Southgate, Ardee Gate and Brabazon Hall all created residential schemes of scale for the ‘new’ street, building back community. The model of ground floor commercial units with good sized apartments overhead was chosen to create a suitably robust streetscape from the empty lands and relics of the 19thC street.
A hiatus after the economic crash of 2008 put the brakes on rebuilding and left obvious problems, such as the forlorn St Luke’s Church in ruins upon its hill and the hacked-away gable of the former Watkins Brewery at Ardee Street, with its fireplaces suspended in mid air. Newmarket’s old IDA Centre/Blenders factory and the nearby Donnelly Centre were light industrial anachronisms, ripe for redevelopment. Cont/
The last number of years has seen the pace of change on the street increase dramatically. Ambitious plans continue to unfold for Newmarket: work has already begun on the development of a new Premier Inn hotel and over 400 build to rent apartments on the former Blenders site, while next door the old Watkins Brewery is being transformed into Ardee Point – a 368 bedroom student housing complex. The former Brewers House has also been approved for a refurbishment creating new apartments and offices and finally healing the wound of its hacked-away gable. Blighted St Luke’s Church, for so long a ravaged ruin, has been expertly transformed by Derek Tynan Architects and Carrig Conservation into a new office premises, renamed Thomas Burgh House, and set off with a stunning landscaped terrace garden – St Luke’s Park.
Alongside Southgate, the new Weaver Park provides a community focal point for the street, with its busy skatebowl and playground and lush planting. The park will be framed by a new housing scheme by Dublin City Architects – 55 units set across two blocks and providing some much needed structure to the street here. The scheme is currently under development, for completion in 2022.
Opposite, a new co-living scheme eeked its way past the recent policy change to restrict this type of development in the city. The permitted Cork Street Coliving of 370+ studio rooms with communal facilities was designed by John Fleming Architects.
The short term letting model finds its biggest concentration at Brickfield Lane on the site of the former Donnelly factories. Three purpose built student accommodation centres have been completed here – Brickfields, From Here and the just-completed Aparto Loom – which combined provide over 1,000 bedrooms for the student rental market. The buildings feature gyms, common rooms, cinema rooms and other facilities. The newly widened Brickfield Lane is the planning gain from the developments, a higher quality route down to Brown Street South and onto Donore Avenue.
Despite initial perceptions, new Cork Street includes a significant number of high quality public housing schemes and community facilities. Established schemes such as Timberyard, Elveden House and Robinson’s Court will soon be joined by the City Council’s Chamber Street scheme. Sofia Housing’s innovative supported housing scheme includes a Wisdom Centre and education facilities. The Mercy Family Centre on Brown Street, St Brigid’s Primary School and Bru Chaoimhin are among the community uses. Weaver Park and St Luke’s Park now offer green spaces, while future investment at nearby St Teresa’s Gardens will see the development of a new sports facility and full-sized playing pitch. Cont/
What Cork Street lacks is economic activity. While there are a few retailers, a supermarket and some cafes, many units along the street remain unused and empty. However its certain that new development along Cork Street will create new customers for the street and stimulate more businesses to open. Despite the gloomy times, there are signs of optimism. A new yoga and wellness centre Breathing Space is just waiting to open its doors at Southgate. There has been a significant change of plan for the sites around Newmarket, away from large areas of offices and back to residential uses. A current application for 12 Newmarket seeks to replace the previous proposal, to create two new retail areas set around a courtyard, designed to accommodate a market. Another market hall is also nearing completion in the Eight Building alongside Teeling Distillery on Newmarket.
There remains much to do on Cork Street. Some large sites continue to be stubbornly neglected, particularly towards Dolphin’s Barn. The impressive Bru Chaoimhin complex and the former Weir Home and Quaker Graveyard across the street are prominent heritage features while also offering opportunities to create open green spaces. And the public realm of the street needs to become more inviting and attractive. Safe cycle lanes and additional tree cover are sorely needed. A healthy dose of fresh ideas from its community, old and new, is required.
Do you have views on the future development of The Liberties and the city? The process to create a Dublin City Development Plan for the period 2022 to 2028 has now begun. The first call-out for public submissions on the plan continues to 22nd February 2021. You can find out more about the issues of concern to the plan and make your submission via www.dublincity.ie.