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Dublin 1’s Neglected Lanes Set For A Makeover — And Developers Are Taking Note

An initiative to upgrade and breathe new life into some of Dublin 1’s under-used laneways with a view to transforming them into ‘living streets’ with more residential, cultural and commercial activity is set to kick off next year.

It’s good news for businesses already operating in and around these lanes as well as developers, including Marlet Property Group, which has applied for planning permission for a hotel and aparthotel scheme at the end of one of the laneways chosen for initial improvement works.

Led by Dublin City Council and Dublintown, and with input from a range of stakeholders, the Reimagining Dublin One’s Laneways project identified 18 lanes in the north inner city that are ‘underperforming’ and perceived to be unsafe and generally unfriendly places to be for a range of reasons.

Artist's impression of what Jervis Lane Upper could look like in the future

Typical characteristics include poor ground surfaces and lighting, litter, graffiti, vandalism, drug abuse and street drinking. The lanes can be long and narrow and often don’t connect well to other streets. In most cases, they lack activity and frontage at ground floor level.

Dublin City Council senior executive officer Donncha O’Dualing said there is a clear opportunity to improve the situation. “We wanted to look at this from a medium to long-term perspective and concentrate on trying to put in place improvements that will have a long-term impact,” he said.

Sean Harrington Architects was brought in to carry out detailed research and come up with conclusions for each of the laneways setting out short, medium and long-term actions for each of them. To get the ball rolling, the project will initially focus on five lanes: Cole’s Lane, Talbot Lane, Jervis Lane Upper, Byrne’s Lane and Abbey Cottages.

Increasing footfall is one of the big objectives across all the lanes. “Internationally it’s been found that to improve laneways, you need activity,” Dualing said. “If people who live there are looking down onto the area or there’s a café that looks out onto the lane, it becomes less attractive for anti-social behaviour and it becomes a safer place and a place where people want to stay.”

Cole's Lane leading to the entrance of the Ilac Centre

Cole’s Lane actually does have substantial footfall during retail hours as it links Henry Street to the entrance of the Hammerson-owned Ilac Centre, with Debenhams on one side and Dunnes Stores on the other. “But at night time there’s no activity and there can be quite a lot of anti-social behaviour there,” O’Dualing said.

Immediate improvement plans include replacing the paving and adding new public lighting and waste bins. Medium term measures are around redesigning the public realm to allow for seating, planting, permanent traders’ stalls, and outdoor cafés and restaurants. The long-term vision is to create an open route between Henry Street and Parnell Street with retail and food and beverage at ground floor level and residential development on upper storeys.

According to O’Dualing, workshops were held earlier this year with property owners, local residents and other stakeholders for each of the lanes ahead of the strategy being developed. “For example, we’ve agreed with the Ilac Centre and Debenhams that they’ll bring uses out onto the lane as well perhaps a café that opens out onto it,” he said.

On Talbot Lane, sett paving and new public lighting will be added in the first phase of work. The long-term vision is to install a glazed roof and redevelop Marlborough Place.

Artist's impression of what Cole's Lane could look like in the future

Jervis Lane Upper is long and narrow — 410 feet long with no intersections — with residential units on one side, but little activity on the other. Improvements to the paving and lighting are on the cards, as well as planting to try to introduce a threshold for existing properties. 

“And we will be looking to encourage the development of three to four storey apartment blocks with balconies overlooking the lane,” O’Dualing said. The council also believes shortcuts through commercial units onto Capel Street could be a unique business opportunity for back-to-front land use.

Running eastwards from Jervis Street and crossing the Millennium Walkway, Byrne’s Lane is currently used as a service yard and closed off to the public in parts. It doesn’t have any use at ground floor level. Short to medium-term proposals include adding public lighting, introducing art installations and encouraging commercial users to look at alternatives to using the lane as a yard. The long-term plan is to connect the lane to Abbey Cottages, Liffey Street and Great Strand Street.

Earlier this year, Marlet Property Group paid more than €22M for a site at the end of Byrne’s Lane that stretches from Upper Abbey Street to Great Strand Street. The developer has applied for permission to build a nine-storey over basement aparthotel with 269 bedrooms fronting onto Great Strand Street and a nine-storey, 207-bed hotel with an entrance on Upper Abbey Street. Two retail units and a pedestrian link between Byrne’s Lane and Great Strand Street are also proposed. 

Artist's rendering of the Clink Hostel on the corner of Abbey Cottages and Abbey Street Upper

That scheme is bounded to east by a site on Abbey Cottages — another one of the pilot lanes — that got the go-ahead in March for a nine-storey, 144-bed hostel that will accommodate 560 people. The property will be developed by boutique hostel brand Clink, which was set up by Irish sisters Anne and Shelly Dolan and currently operates in London and Amsterdam.

Planning has also been granted on the other side of Abbey Cottages for an extension to an existing building on Abbey Street to create an 88-bed hostel.

At the moment, Abbey Cottages is seen as a particularly malfunctioning lane, due to the fact that it backs onto mainly vacant and disused sites. The council’s immediate plans are around paving and lighting. It will look to have an ESB sub-station relocated and at options for connecting to Byrne’s Lane and Great Strand Street. Ultimately the aim is to create urban blocks that integrate Byrne’s Lane as an open pedestrian street, connecting with Abbey Cottages, Liffey Street Lower and Great Strand Street.

Around the corner, Noel Smyth’s Fitzwilliam Real Estate Properties was given the green light to build a nine-storey hotel on the corner of Liffey Street Upper and Middle Abbey Street during the summer. It’s understood that the hotel will be operated by boutique chain Motel One.

Upper Jervis Lane as it looks now

Dublin City Council is also looking at upgrading the public realm from the Ha’penny Bridge up to Henry Street and the crossover at the Luas to try to improve permeability. “Around 35,000 pedestrians a day use that route and we’re going to try to improve it, particularly when you’re coming across the river from Temple Bar," O'Dualing said.

“And there will be an awful lot of new visitors coming into the area so there’s great potential for increasing restaurants and shops and other commercial entities that can cater for them.”

The council will be issuing tender documents to appoint a design team for the development work in the coming weeks. Design should start in Q1 and the council intends submitting plans for approval by the middle of next year with a view to site works beginning in Q3.