Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

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Parnell Street East A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Dublin Civic Trust is an independent charitable organisation that works to recognise and protect the city’s architectural heritage.

Dublin Civic Trust 4 Castle Street Dublin 2 Tel: (01) 475 6911 Email: Web:


Contents Foreword


1. Background and Context


2. Culture Tourism: An Impetus for Change


3. Luas, Metro and Public Transport Proposals


4. Assessment of the Street in its Current Condition


5. Suggestions for Improvements


6. An Action Plan for Parnell Street East


Acknowledgements Written by:

Stephen Coyne MIPI, Graham Hickey, Geraldine Walsh


Dublin Civic Trust

June 2011

Architectural Visualisations:

James Kelly and Margot Cullen, Kelly & Cogan Architects


Other Images:

Google Earth & Bing Maps (Aerial Views) City Centre Map taken from O’Connell Street IAP, Dublin City Council (1998)

This document was commissioned by Carroll’s Gifts and Souvenirs and Dublin City Business Association.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Foreword This study was commissioned by Carroll’s Gifts and Souvenirs and Dublin City Business Association to offer an independent analysis of the existing condition and future potential of Parnell Street East, an historic thoroughfare located in Dublin’s north inner city. The aim of the study is to put forward a vision for the street and how it might improve its public face and attract a meaningful degree of regeneration and renewal. The street, and the surrounding North Georgian Core, remains one of Dublin’s most under-realised areas: a district rich in quality architecture, engaging streets and cultural treasures. This area also holds enormous scope to revert to its original function as a high quality residential suburb of the city, with Parnell Street East as its commercial high street. The analysis in this study is intended to be objective, with suggested initiatives which can be undertaken to improve and enhance the quality of buildings, the public realm and the retail and business mix of Parnell Street East. The study is intended to provoke discussion among property owners and the business community on the street, and to provide a template for a renewed partnership between the local businesses and residents and other key stakeholders such as Dublin City Council and nearby cultural bodies.


Parnell Street East at dusk looking towards the Charles Stewart Parnell Monument. 5

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Purpose of this Study This study aims to:


■ Appraise the architectural and historical


Introduction For many years, the eastern section of Parnell Street has been largely forgotten as one of Dublin’s commercial thoroughfares. However, the street, running from its junction with O’Connell Street and Parnell Square to its intersection with Middle Gardiner Street and Summerhill, was always destined to act as the commercial centre of the surrounding Georgian suburb as developed from the mid-18th century by the famous Gardiner family. While the street continued to perform this role right into the 20th century, commercial activity on the street began to decline dramatically towards from the middle part of that century, in common with many similar secondary streets of the city centre. In recent years, Parnell Street East has gained a new vibrancy as a centre for Dublin’s new multi ethnic populations. The street is busy and active, with a range of restaurants and shops, and is increasingly seen by Dubliners as the place to go for authentic oriental cuisine. However problems remain. The quality of the environment on the street is poor. The presentation and repair of many buildings fails to match the modest and occasionally considerable historical and architectural significance of these properties, and detracts from much of the street’s partial designation as an Architectural Conservation Area. The condition of footpaths and the public realm on the street is very poor and creates an uncomfortable and uninviting pedestrian experience. And while the newfound uses along the street are welcome, there has been a failure to date to integrate this commercial activity into the wider vision for the historic North Georgian Core, which surrounds the street.


significance of Parnell Street East and demonstrate the unique qualities of the thoroughfare, its buildings and their architectural elements.

■ Identify the street as a commercial hub for the north inner city and clearly define its relationship with the adjacent streets, spaces and attractions of the North Georgian Core.

■ Outline measures to improve the quality and functioning of pedestrian space on the street and the presentation of buildings and shop fronts.

■ Outline how the emerging role of the street as an ethnic and oriental restaurant quarter can be managed in the context of its historic building stock and surrounding sensitive streets.

■ Espouse a vision for Parnell Street East as an integral part of the city centre experience.

1: Background and Context

Study Area Parnell Street East lies at the northern end of O’Connell Street, running west to east from its pivotal junction with Parnell Square to Middle Gardiner Street and the edge of the traditional city centre at Summerhill. The naming of streets in this part of the city centre can confuse even the most true-blood Dubliner. The street is simply called Parnell Street and forms an extension of the larger section of the street lying to the west. However for the purposes of this study we will call the street Parnell Street East. The junction of Parnell Square and O’Connell Street forms the first major intersection of the grand civic spine which runs from the square south and west to Christ Church. However, Parnell Square itself can be a confusion: the eastern side of the square, nearest to Parnell Street East is called Cavendish Row, while the northern and western sides are called Palace Row and Granby Row respectively, although these latter street names have now fallen from common use. The southern side of the square forms part of Parnell Street, and the street continues on to its junction with Capel Street at Ryder’s Row.

Parnell Street East straddles the divide between two distinct city quarters. North of the street lies the great North Georgian Core, the classically planned suburb laid out by Luke Gardiner and his descendents, with its marching terraces of townhouses and palazzos and its gracious squares and crescents. To the south of Parnell Street East lies the commercial centre of the city and the long axis of retail streets - Talbot Street, North Earl Street, Henry Street and Mary Street - which form the core of the north city retail district. Parnell Street East itself is a commercial street and derives much of its footfall from the North Georgian Core and from the broader residential expanse of Summerhill and the north east inner city. These areas have a wide and diverse population, greatly augmented in recent years by large immigrant populations. As a result of this influx, Parnell Street East has changed and adapted to become a centre for these communities of New Irish. The street is now clearly dominated by ethnic shops and restaurants, mainly oriental, giving it a highly distinctive international flavour which is also found in other parts of the city such as Moore Street and Capel Street.

Above: An aerial view of Parnell Street East running from O‘Connell Street eastwards to Summerhill. Originally called Great Britain Street, it took its present name in the 1920s after the great 19th century statesman Charles Stewart Parnell.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Historical Overview of Parnell Street East Parnell Street East has its origins in an ancient route called Ballybough Lane which ran from the old St. Mary’s Abbey lands of the north city to the village of Ballybough and the coast. Early 1700s The route was renamed Great Britain Street in the early 1700s in tandem with the early development of the Gardiner estate on the north side of the city, when extensive lands and existing streets were purchased from the Moore family by Luke Gardiner. Although still on the outskirts of the city, the eastern end of Great Britain Street greatly benefited from the gradual creep eastwards of the Moore/Gardiner developments such as Henry Street, Marlborough Street and Drogheda Street the latter a forerunner to O’Connell Street. Charles Brooking’s map of 1728 (below) shows these thoroughfares as substantially complete or in the process of construction by that time. The northern side of Great Britain Street is depicted as developed, though in reality this was likely to have been scattered with houses, market gardens and boundary walls. Coupled with the vacant lands on its south side, the street would still have retained a semi-rural appearance at this point.

Parnell Stre e

Above: Charles Brooking’s view of Dublin, looking south, showing the Parnell Street East area in 1728. The tower of old St. George’s Church on Hill Street can be seen to the left, largely surrounded by a rural hinterland. Dutch gable-fronted houses can be seen as characterising the street architecture of the area. Below: Charles Brooking’s map of 1728.

et ll Stre Parne

O’Connell Street


t East


1: Background and Context

Late 1700s John Rocque’s map of 1756 (below) shows in remarkable detail the shape and dispersal of buildings along Great Britain Street at that time, as well as the relatively little progress that had been made in construction since the 1720s, indicated by the large tracts of undeveloped land on the southern side. Nonetheless, substantial stretches of the street were lined with terraced houses with long rear gardens, the majority of which were probably in residential use. The Lshape plans of many of the houses suggests that triangular-gabled and Dutch-gabled architecture was popular on the street, as this was a common plan of this particular house type. Gardens, laneways, courtyards and vacant plots are also in evidence, highlighting that development efforts to date had largely been focused on adjacent Sackville Street and Cavendish Street. It was therefore not until the late 18th century when further infilling occurred that the eastern end of Great Britain Street could have been described as substantially complete. Below: Rocque’s map of Dublin from 1756, showing in considerable detail the types of buildings and plots then occupying Parnell Street East (then also part-called Summer Hill)

ell n r Pa

ee Str

Gardiner Estate The development of the north side of the city as an exclusive residential suburb by consecutive generations of the Gardiner family is one of the most important achievements of the Georgian period in Dublin, spanning almost a century from the 1720s until development fizzled out in the early 19th century. The marching streets and terraces of great brick townhouses that define this quarter of the city were originally built to cater for the aspirations of the aristocracy and wealthy merchants of the era. In this context, the eastern end of Great Britain Street is somewhat distinctive, as it developed along an existing ancient route, with plots haphazardly developed over time along its winding path. By contrast, the great developments of the surrounding Gardiner estate of the late 18th century were laid out in a formal, often grid-like manner, with planned plot widths and building heights. This contrast can still be seen today, where the undulating building heights of Parnell Street East and its constantly varying street width contrasts sharply with the ordered scale and grandeur of Parnell Square, North Great George’s Street, Mountjoy Square and adjacent streets.



Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Rutland (Parnell) Square The development of Cavendish Street in the 1750s, coupled with Dr. Bartholomew Mosse’s decision to establish his Lying-In Hospital and associated pleasure gardens at the top of Sackville Street, greatly boosted the fortunes of Great Britain Street in the ensuing decades, transforming it from a sleepy road into an urban street with emerging commercial activity. This development was consolidated through the building of the Rotunda entertainment venue, a great circular room that supported the adjacent hospital, and the establishment of the Assembly Rooms (now the Gate Theatre) in the 1780s. The area thus became the centre of fashionable society in Dublin and a destination of considerable distinction - a trend that was to continue with the subsequent laying out of Mountjoy Square and surrounding streets in the final decades of the 18th century. 19th Century In contrast to the great residential terraces of neighbouring areas, Great Britain Street reorientated its role as retail street in the 19th century. Its houses were gradually turned to commercial use, while some of the older buildings on the street were demolished and rebuilt with shop units to the ground floor.

By 1850, the year of the publication of Shaw’s Pictorial Directory, nearly every building on the street hosted a shop or business premises, with barely three houses retaining some semblance of their original residential frontages onto the pavement. This trend is borne out by the commercial directories of the period, which list producers, retailers and service providers in virtually every premises - both at street level and in the upper floors of buildings. The variety and quality of businesses established on Great Britain Street - ranging from dressmakers to confectioners to druggists to light manufacturing - gives an indication of the retail demands of the wider area, where wealthy residents of adjacent streets and the prestige of Sackville Street helped generate a quality business culture that lasted into the late 1800s. This stands in marked contrast to the dawn of the 20th century, by which time the variety and quality of businesses had deteriorated. Thom’s commercial directory for 1900 indicates the onset of tenementisation, general grocery, providers and butchery, as well as a homogenisation of business types catering for the day to day needs of the increasingly impoverished local community.

Above: The Assembly Rooms on Rutland Square in its late 18th century heyday as depicted by James Malton - now the Ambassador Rooms and Gate Theatre on Parnell Square. The square with its ‘New Gardens’’ was once celebrated as a centre of Dublin’s social life. 10

1: Background and Context

Above: An extract of Great Britain Street from Shaw’s Pictorial Directory of 1850. These simple line drawings provide an invaluable record of the appearance of Parnell Street East before the mass advent of photography. They clearly show the extent of commercial activity on the street by the mid-19th century, with almost every building featuring a shop unit of some kind.

Commercial Profile of Great Britain Street The chart below indicates the change in business types on Great Britain Street from 1845 to 1900. A trend of emerging ‘lower order’ uses and an intensification of similar service functions indicates a decline in the quality of the street, away from the specialist uses of old towards a business community mainly serving the domestic demands of the local tenement population. Trade



Bakers, Confectioners & Fancy Breads



Clothiers, tailors, haberdashery, hosiery and drapery 17


Shoe and bootmakers



Grocers and tea/spirit merchants



Provisions dealers


















Druggists, surgeons, apothecaries

















2 11

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Decline The decline of the north Georgian city began quite slowly after the Act of Union in 1800, with many wealthy residents and an emerging middle class continuing to live in the area as late as the 1850s. However, the collapse of the Gardiner estate in the 1840s, coupled with the construction of the Drogheda railway line which made large tracts of Summerhill less desirable, resulted in a decline in controls and quality of tenancy on the north side of the city over the latter half of the 19th century. 20th Century By the turn of 1900, large tracts of Georgian townhouses surrounding Parnell Street East had descended into tenements, including the upper floors of many buildings on Parnell Street itself. Slum conditions descended to such a poor level that by the 1940s entire terraces began to be pulled down by Dublin Corporation, culminating in final demolitions in the 1980s. Thus, the area surrounding Parnell Street, particularly east of Gardiner Street, is largely unrecognisable today from its Georgian past, with many fragmented and traffic dominated streetscapes standing as the legacy of wholesale clearances and re-housing


projects. Parnell Street East suffered a similar decline, with dereliction and vacancy creeping along the thoroughfare, a trend that was exacerbated after a car bomb exploded on the street in May 1974, killing ten people and causing extensive damage. This served a further economic blow to a street in a nearpermanent state of decline that failed to reverse itself until the 1990s. The growth in Dublin’s immigrant population during the Celtic Tiger years and the lower rents on offer on Parnell Street provided the environment for the establishment of the many Asian and oriental restaurants and businesses that populate the street today. Below: This view from c. 1932 shows the northern end of Marlborough Street facing towards its junction with Parnell Street East (in the background). The festooning celebrates the Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin that year. The magnificent, strong terraces of mid-18th century townhouses have long since been demolished - the eastern terrace is presently occupied by Marlborough House (Eircom offices).

1: Background and Context

Historic Architecture of Parnell Street East Parnell Street East is a broad, well-proportioned thoroughfare with an historic building stock that embodies the architectural typologies and craftsmanship of residential and commercial building in Dublin of the 18th and 19th centuries. The street’s built form is strongly influenced by its historic evolution as a ribbon-developed route into the north city; much the same way as Camden Street on the south side evolved from a busy suburban road into a substantial urban street, featuring a similar jumble of building types. Parnell Street’s building plots, heights and architectural styles vary considerably along its length, the result of centuries of piecemeal development, embellishment and adaptation. In essence, it is an unplanned thoroughfare, where coordination of building massing and architectural expression historically went unmanaged, and where control of rebuilding or infilling of vacant plots was largely the prerogative of the owner. Likewise, the street never experienced a sustained period of fashion or economic drive that incentivised investment in property with resulting higher architectural aspirations. Indeed, parts may still be described today as ‘unfinished’ in urban terms, with the original modest scale of the early 18th century street remaining evident in stretches where economic stagnation in the 19th century failed to regenerate on a larger scale. This complex history lends the street a distinctive character that is quite different to the more ordered and prosperous secondary streets of the city such as Capel Street, and markedly different to the planned, grandiose rebuilding of adjacent O’Connell Street in the 1910s and 1920s. Yet, in spite of the venerable origins of the thoroughfare and its building stock, the historic qualities of the architecture and built form of Parnell Street East are often not immediately apparent, mainly as a result of disfigurement of buildings over the course of the 20th century. The radical reordering of façades, shop fronts and rooflines has disguised many of the qualities of Parnell Street that are waiting to be rediscovered.

The north-eastern terrace of the street comprises one of its most intact historic stretches.

Truncation, demolition and semi-permanent structures define the central section of the street’s southern side.

Typical example of modified historic façades.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Early Buildings A number of buildings dating to the origins of Parnell Street in the early to mid 18th century still survive today, cloaked behind later façades. This practice of disguising ‘old fashioned’ buildings was a commonplace occurrence in Dublin, where early gable-fronted houses were later refaced with more regular, flat-parapeted Georgian or Victorian façades. Soft Georgian brickwork was also often replaced where erosion or subsidence had taken place. In this respect, Parnell Street East is an important street, as it retains a number of early buildings in a merely altered state, which would otherwise have been demolished in more fashionable parts of the city. An example of such buildings survive at Nos. 157158, where unified Victorian façades belie a curious pair of early Georgian houses of c. 1745 date. With central attic windows and an unusual triple-pitch roof, these building may once have been gable-fronted to the street as a unified composition. Certainly No. 156 was formerly a gable-fronted house before being first altered, and secondly refaced or rebuilt, in the 19th century. No. 99 bears all the hallmarks of an early Georgian building with exposed sash boxes, that John Rocque appears to depict on his 1756 map with expanses of undeveloped land around it. Early building fabric may also survive in the substructure of other properties on the street which requires internal investigation. Late Georgian Buildings Parnell Street East sustained its greatest period of construction in the second half of the 18th century, with development being spurred on by the completion of nearby Rutland (Parnell) Square. Evidence of this boom can be seen in the more grandly proportioned buildings of Parnell Street East which date to the final years of the 18th century. Examples include much of the terrace stretching from O’Connell Street to Marlborough Street, where Nos. 79-82 present a fine array of Georgian brick townhouses, now coated in paint. Similar infilling can be seen across the road at Nos. 159-164 and in the impressive scale of former townhouses in the terraces flanking either side of North Great George’s Street. The Bunkhouse at No. 146 retains the last domestic doorcase on the street. 14

Nos. 156, 157 and 158. The Victorian façades of the left-hand pair conceal two early Georgian houses, while No. 156 may retain some early building fabric behind its 19th century façade.

Nos. 157 and 158 depicted in 1850 with a lunette window to the left-hand house. No. 156 is clearly a modified gable-fronted house, which was heavily altered again in the late 19th century to its current Victorian appearance.

No. 99 today and in 1850, showing remarkably little change. Its low proportions and early window frames suggest a building of c. 1740s.

1: Background and Context

Some of Georgian houses on the street may also feature good plasterwork and joinery to their interiors. A more unusual Georgian house type can be seen at No. 96, where an indent in the street contains a truncated base of what was once an unusual four-storey octagonal bow, probably built as part of the houses on the corner with Marlborough Street to terminate the vista down North Great George's Street (and gain fine views of that street from inside). It may originally have had a doorcase at ground floor level. The houses on the corner have also since been truncated, but do still feature good Victorian shop fronts, currently obscured. Infilling of vacant plots on Parnell Street East continued into the early years of the 19th century, resulting in a distinctive, and now rare, narrow plot Regency house at No. 78 with picturesque Wyatt windows - once a commonplace house type in Dublin. Its quirky design appears to have its origins in a particularly narrow early 1700s house that it replaced in the early 19th century. A similar Wyatt windowed house across the road at No. 150 was demolished during the 20th century. Smaller scale buildings of an early 19th century character survive in an altered state on the southern stretch of the street approaching Marlborough Street from O’Connell Street. Victorian Buildings Victorian architecture is evident mainly in the refacings of earlier buildings and shop fronts on Parnell Street East, where quality decorative brickwork and stone masonry can be seen at premises such as The Shakespeare at No. 160 with its unusual castellated parapet, and more modest buildings such as No. 102 with its charming Victorian brick façade. Other 19th century façades are unrecognisable due to disfigurement by painted brickwork. Historic shop fronts can also be found at the corner of Marlborough Street at Nos. 95-96, where original fascia boards and a corner column are concealed by modern additions - a common theme on the street. The Dublin Supporter’s Bar at No. 98 features a handsome Edwardian-era front, while the former Blue Lion pub at No. 103 is host to a marvellously intact Victorian pub front with idiosyncratic decoration.

View of the Marlborough Street corner taken from St. George’s Church spire in 1854, showing a four-storey bow window with arched and glazed shop fronts at ground level.

Remains of substantial four-storey buildings and bow, with disfigured Victorian shop fronts.

Rare narrow plot Regency house at No. 78.

The Shakespeare public house at No. 160 presents one of the best Victorian façades on Parnell Street East, with an historic granite shop front and unusual castellated parapet.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Parnell Street East


1: Background and Context

The Modern Street: Planning and Development In latter years, Parnell Street East has been largely anonymous in the various city development plans and planning initiatives put forward for the north city area.

In regard to architectural heritage and land use, there is a further divide:

The western section of the street, stretching from O’Connell Street to the junction with North Great George’s Street and Marlborough Street is included within the O’Connell Street Architectural Conservation Area (ACA) and the O’Connell Street Area of Special Planning Control (ASPC). Both of these designations place controls on the types of development which can take place on this part of the street, which is its most historically intact section, but also offer great scope to create a higher quality street environment, with some imagination and enlightened intervention.

The remaining eastern portion of the street lies outside of the ACA and ASPC, but a number of structures along this portion have been listed as Protected Structures.

The western section of Parnell Street stretching towards Capel Street has seen relatively successful urban regeneration since the 1990s and 2000s - though only after a period of great damage wrought by road widening and site assembly. However, Parnell Street East remains very much as it has done since the middle of the last century; a faded, but still evocative street of 18th and 19th century terraces interspersed with 20th century interventions of varying quality. In terms of its commercial significance within the city, Parnell Street East declined for most of the 20th century before receiving a new lease of life in recent years, becoming a centre for a diverse range of ethnic businesses, lending a vibrant multicultural air to the street. Ironically, given the quite obvious absence of investment in its buildings and public realm, Parnell Street East has achieved what many other parts of the city struggle to develop: a distinctive brand and sense of itself. Dublin City Development Plan 2011-2017 The City Development Plan is the primary and statutory planning and policy document of Dublin City Council and is intended to guide the development of the city. A Plan is made every six years by the elected members of the Council - the current Plan was adopted in December 2010 and will run until 2017. There is a largely fragmented planning approach to Parnell Street East in the new City Development Plan, with different sections of the street subject to different zonings. Generally, the southern side of the street is considered as part of the city centre (Z5 zone), while the northern side is a mix of mixed use and residential zonings.

In all there are 13 Protected Structures found on the street. Protected Structure status is a statutory designation and places a range of obligations on building owners and requires that all works to a building, both to the exterior and interior, are subject to planning permission from Dublin City Council. Parnell Street East is mentioned specifically in the new City Development Plan. Along with Capel Street, it is earmarked for the clustering of uses such as ethnic restaurants and shops which may add to the character and vitality of the area. However, one of Parnell Street East’s key functions, as a gateway to the North Georgian Core, is largely unexplored in the development plan. Notwithstanding this, the development plan does promote the regeneration and enhancement of the North Georgian Core as a cultural district for the city. Parnell Street East should seek to capitalise on the increased profile which this area of the city is likely to gain.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street



Overview Parnell Street East has an important locational context which could be the driver for its rejuvenation in coming years. The street lies between, and so connects, two distinct city quarters: the main commercial centre, formed by the convergence of O’Connell Street and the Talbot Street - Henry Street - Mary Street axis of street, and the North Georgian Core, which begins directly off Parnell Street, and which is now given renewed significance in the new City Development Plan. The new Plan emphasises “the regeneration of the north Georgian core to its former cultural and historic importance so as to leverage economic and social benefits for the entire city”. The potential of the area is clearly appreciated and is given further stimulus by the recent designation of Dublin as a UNESCO City of Literature and the efforts being made to gain World Heritage Site status for Dublin’s Georgian city core. The potential of culture tourism is also increasingly recognised as a major economic driver for Dublin, and tourism is regularly listed as one of the key industries which will help Ireland emerge from its current economic difficulties. However, translating the rhetoric of culture tourism into practical actions on the ground can prove challenging. It requires a full appreciation of what a city’s culture tourism product is and how this can be protected and enhanced. It also requires recognition that delivering a high quality product is a task for all stakeholders in the city, not simply Fáilte Ireland or Dublin City Council. In areas of significant culture tourism potential, such as the North Georgian Core and Parnell Street 18

East, local businesses and the community must also play their part in order to grasp the opportunities offered by this key industry. Visitors come to Dublin for many reasons, but the almost universal expectation of all visitors is to experience a city centre which is clean, welcoming, memorable and distinctive. Tourists seek evocative and beautiful architecture and buildings; good quality accommodation; a wide range of cultural and leisure attractions and sights; inviting and varied restaurants, cafés and bars; and safe and clean streets, parks and public spaces. These are imperatives to provide if Dublin is to continue to compete as a major European visitor destination. In the context of the wider city, these are all elements which Parnell Street East and the North Georgian Core can supply with the right vision, commitment and investment. This report will look at the issues surrounding the pedestrian experience on Parnell Street East and will outline how the niche which the street has built for itself as a district of ethnic restaurants and businesses can be improved and enhanced. The key asset which Parnell Street East has is its proximity to the North Georgian Core and the developing cultural and leisure uses in this area. In this regard, the architecture of Parnell Street East itself and how it is presented are key concerns, as is the connection of the street to its surrounding area.

Dublin’s tourism industry relies heavily on the city’s built heritage, with its unique character and identity as a city of neighbouring but distinct quarters.

2: Culture Tourism: An Impetus for Change

Principles Underpinning the Culture Tourism Experience


Visitors must feel safe and comfortable at all stages along their route. Antisocial behaviour must be tackled and the concentrations of drug treatment centres and other facilities found at various high profile locations around the city, which present a threatening atmosphere to city visitors, must be addressed. The balance between traffic and the pedestrian must be weighted more in favour of the pedestrian, with wider pavements where practical, broader road crossings with favourable sequencing of traffic signals, and attractive focal points at which to stop, rest and take stock.

Attractions must be encouraged to work together within a cluster to devise strategies with local businesses to maximise the commercial potential of visitors to their locale. Maps and iPhone “apps” should be developed for key character areas to encourage visitors to venture off the beaten track and discover new areas of the city. For example, a “North Georgian City” website could be developed as a tourism and cultural resource for this area. Mini-Culture Nights, market days, festivals and restaurant nights should be actively pursued. The cultural dimensions of the Parnell Square Framework Plan should be speedily implemented.



Streets must be well maintained and clean, with good quality paving, attractive street furniture and imaginative planting employed consistently. Equal attention must be paid to secondary routes which “loop” the visitor back into the city centre or towards public transport options. Buildings along key routes should be well presented and maintained, restoration should be encouraged, shop fronts should be attractive and sensitive to their building, signage and visual clutter should be minimised. A diversity of uses and imaginative retailing should be encouraged. Clusters of cafés and restaurants should be provided at key points. Active upper floor usage should be encouraged.

Visitor information is vital, with quality, well maintained wayfinding signage and map panels installed at key locations. Consideration should be given to locating a small tourist information office in the area, marketing the wider North Georgian Core. Historic street plaques and information boards should be installed, highlighting points of interest, the origin of street names, etc. Local historical groups and other bodies should be engaged to help devise tourist routes and to operate cultural buildings and sites. Flags and sculptural signage should be used to colourfully brand character areas and to aid legibility.



Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Parnell Square: A Cultural Epicentre for the North City In February 2005, Dublin City Council published the Parnell Square Framework Plan, prepared by Howley Harrington Architects. The plan envisaged the development of Parnell Square as a cultural hub for the north city, building on the success of a number of existing institutions on the square such as Dublin City Gallery: The Hugh Lane, the Dublin Writers Museum and the Gate Theatre. The framework plan advocated new uses for the former Coláiste Mhuire buildings, now in State ownership, and the expansion of the Writers’ Museum to create a Museum of Literature.

The physical restructuring of the square was also envisaged, restoring the central Pleasure Gardens and creating a new axis through the square from the main entrance of the Rotunda Hospital. It was expected that both the Rotunda and the adjoining Ambassador Theatre would revert to city ownership, allowing for new cultural uses in these buildings. Drawing this complex together would be a greatly improved public realm, with broader pavements, tree planting and new street furniture, integrating with the high quality street works executed on O’Connell Street. The ambition was, and remains, to create a “draw” at the top end of O’Connell Street, attracting Dubliners and visitors alike to the North Georgian Core. The Hugh Lane

Former Rotunda Pleasure Gardens Ambassador - suggested new Dublin City Library

Rotunda Hospital 20

Gate Theatre

Former Coláiste Mhuire Buildings

Writers Museum

Garden of Remembrance

2: Culture Tourism: An Impetus for Change

Despite being allocated a significant capital budget of €12 million, few of the proposals set out in the Framework Plan have been implemented to date and none of the most significant works, such as the rejuvenation of the public realm, have been progressed. The Plan has fallen victim to the uncertainty created by the proposed Metro North and Luas BXD line works. Both of these projects affect the square: a Metro North station is to be situated on the eastern side of the square while Luas BXD will pass along Parnell Street East and the southern side of Parnell Square. The delays surrounding both projects have in turn delayed the capital investment proposed under the framework plan. Nevertheless, some projects have been realised including the refurbishment and extension of the Dublin City Gallery at Charlemont House and the extension of the Gate Theatre to include new facilities. A second entrance to the Gardens of Remembrance from the north side of the square was also completed by OPW. In 2008, Dublin City Council announced their desire to develop a new City Library at the Ambassador Theatre, and while the proposal has also stalled, if realised, it would introduce another flagship cultural use to the square.

Vision of the Parnell Square Framework Plan The plan proposes to:

■ Improve all areas of the public domain in the

■ ■ ■ ■ ■

square and in Parnell Street to reduce the visual dominance of cars, buses and parking. Improve the link and vista from O’Connell Street. Redefine the edges of the square with new buildings and active public and commercial use at ground floor. Improve the connection with the Garden of Remembrance. Open up the historic Rotunda to public use, rejuvenating the Ambassador Theatre. Create a vibrant complex of cultural and commercial uses on Parnell Square North.

New energy is required for the framework plan because the fundamental concept of developing a cultural hub here remains sound. The project is given added impetus by the increased recognition of the potential of cultural tourism and by the recent designation of Dublin as a UNESCO City of Literature and the proposals to designate the city’s Georgian areas as a World Heritage Site. One low-cost option to pursue would be to develop a temporary arts facility in the former Coláiste Mhuire buildings. These buildings require refurbishment and introducing a temporary use would allow for some much needed elementary works to the buildings, without necessarily prejudicing their future use. With the Irish Museum of Modern Art closing for a period to facilitate refurbishment of its premises, the opportunity to make use of Coláiste Mhuire as a temporary home for the museum’s collections should be explored. With the explosion in arts initiatives and creative energy in the city of late, an exciting and dynamic new use of this building could easily be facilitated.

Above: An image of the principal elements within the Parnell Square Framework Plan.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Restoring the Pleasure Gardens of Parnell Square

Above: Parnell Square today, its gardens largely covered by ancillary buildings of the Rotunda Hospital. Below: Parnell Square restored to its former glory, with grassed areas and tree lined walks.


2: Culture Tourism: An Impetus for Change

The North Georgian Core The formal streets and squares to the north of Parnell Street East represent some of Dublin’s most valuable architectural heritage. Behind the uniform façades of 18th century townhouses lies a wealth of ornate craftsmanship and handsome interiors - among the finest of any Georgian city. However, this area of the city remains relatively undiscovered and under-visited by tourists and Dubliners alike. An important element of the new city development plan is to encourage the physical rejuvenation of the North Georgian Core, emphasising its cultural and historical value. The area should be encouraged to return to its original intended use as a residential suburb of the city. The fine townhouses of the area can be converted to high quality apartments with imagination and careful intervention - there are already many fine examples of these homes in the area.

With a strong residential community comes the demand for a variety of shops and services. By encouraging a broad social mix in the area, this demand is widened and a greater diversity of commercial businesses can be attracted to the area. However, the area’s rich urban scenes should not be overlooked as attractions in themselves. With vision and commitment, the quality of North Georgian Core can be raised to that of Edinburgh’s renowned New Town - a major tourist draw for that city. Visitors to Dublin can be encouraged to wander and explore the gracious streets and squares of the area, frequenting galleries, cafés and specialist shops. A diversity of small cultural attractions can be provided to augment existing institutions such as the James Joyce Centre and the Writers Museum. Historical associations can be maximised and the history of the area richly and evocatively interpreted to Dubliners and city visitors alike.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

What these works mean for Parnell Street East



With all the uncertainty surrounding the construction of Metro North and the Luas city centre connecting line, it is easy to forget the significant impact which these two projects are likely to have on Parnell Street East and its environs if realised. Metro North will link St. Stephen’s Green with Dublin Airport and Swords and includes provision of a new underground station on the east side of Parnell Square. The Luas BXD line will connect the existing Green Line at St. Stephen’s Green with the Red Line at Abbey Street and continue to Broombridge via Grangegorman. While the northbound section of tramline will run up O’Connell Street to Parnell Square and turn west, the southbound line will run onto Parnell Street East and turn southwards onto Marlborough Street, continuing via a new bridge across the River Liffey to Hawkins Street and College Green.

The proposed Metro station at Parnell Square will provide a major transport hub for the square and the surrounding area, serving its various cultural uses and hotels with a direct connection to Dublin Airport and to the new public transport network. Parnell Street East will have a greater prominence within the city, based on its proximity to this new station. However, the proposed Luas BXD line will have a much greater physical impact on Parnell Street East given that the line will run at surface level. Under current proposals, a new Parnell stop will be located on the north side of Parnell Street East close to the junction with Upper O’Connell Street. The single platform will be located on a widened footpath between Parnell Square East and Parnell Place. The plans for Luas BXD propose realigning and resurfacing pavements on Parnell Street East to facilitate the new stop. The plans will also introduce a network of overhead power cables or wirescape to Parnell Street East with significant visual impacts on the street and on the key vista towards the Parnell Monument. Indeed, if executed, the wirescape is likely to radically impinge on how we view one of the city’s most iconic monuments, as well as the setting of the Rotunda Hospital. The Luas proposals will reduce the extent of roadspace afforded to traffic on Parnell Street East, which is welcome on such a broad expanse of street. However, the proposals are unclear on details such as the location of bus stops or facilitating the existing cycle lanes. It is also unclear that there will be any benefit to street activity from widening the pavement between Parnell Place and O’Connell Street, as the wider section of pavement is likely to be consumed by the new Luas stop Above all, it is not clear how all this significant construction work might benefit Parnell Street East in terms of an improved public realm. Left: The route of the proposed Luas BXD line running through the city centre.


3: Luas, Metro and Public Transport Developments

Parnell Monument

The proposed Parnell stop accommodated within a widened section of pavement

Traffic reduced to three lanes

Areas of the street repaved

Lower impact option for Parnell stop on Marlborough Street

While the works will provide an opportunity to revitalise elements of the public realm of the street, such as paving, it is not clear that the works will lead to an enhancement of civic and commercial life on the street by creating a greater extent of public space or creating an atmosphere conducive to browsing and relaxing. As has been demonstrated on Abbey Street, the location of Luas stops directly outside commercial premises, combined with a narrow expanse of paving, does not improve the commercial potential of these shops. The proposed Parnell stop is likely to result in the same situation developing on the section of the street with the most potential to accommodate greater street activity, due to its width, aspect and quality of its streetscape. Middle Right: The current narrow stretch of pavement in front of Nos. 153-163 Parnell Street East could be transformed to accommodate civic life and encourage a more relaxed atmosphere on the street. Bottom Right: The existing Abbey Luas stop gives some indication as to how the proposed Parnell stop might function and appear. The stop and its paraphernalia leave little room for street activity and has not made the shop units’ frontages more commercially attractive. 25

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Is there a better approach? Location of the stop Perhaps a more acceptable solution would be to relocate the proposed Luas stop to Marlborough Street on the wide expanse of pavement outside Marlborough House (Eircom building) where the stop would not impact unduly on commercial activity. The widened section of paving fronting Nos. 153-163 Parnell Street East could then be given over to a greater degree of street life including cafés with outdoor seating, market stalls and shop displays. Tree planting and planters could be incorporated to soften and beautify the street here. The potential of this section is discussed further in Chapter 5. Wirescapes—Overhead Power Cables The proposed wirescape associated with Luas BXD is likely to be highly intrusive in many areas of the city centre. Cables attached to buildings, freestanding poles and cradle arrangements will all add greatly to the visual clutter of city streets and directly impact on many of the city’s most iconic and historic vistas.


Dublin Civic Trust and DCBA have lobbied the Railway Procurement Agency to adopt an alternatively powered system to overhead cabling for Luas BXD. This is also the declared position of Dublin City Council. The railway order for Luas BXD is currently being considered by An Bord Pleanála. Below and Opposite: The tram system installed in Bordeaux, France in 2004 opted for a much more low impact third rail system within the historic city core. The system allows for trams to access many of the narrow and architecturally important streets of the city without requiring an elaborate wirescape. There are clear comparisons between the street below and Marlborough Street or Parnell Street East.

Trams along a busy city centre street in Bordeaux, France. The city’s tram network uses overhead wires outside the city core but transfers to a third rail system within the historic centre, thereby minimising the damaging and unsightly effects of wirescapes. 27

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street



Overview Parnell Street East significantly underperforms as a city centre street. While the street has experienced a greater degree of commercial activity in recent years due to an influx of ethnic businesses, this belies serious and longstanding problems of a lack of investment and the continued degradation of its historic building stock. Ethnic businesses have been attracted to Parnell Street East in recent years because of low rents, driven mainly by the lack of attractiveness of the street to other commercial activities. However, while this newfound vibrancy is to be welcomed, coordination and investment are required to ensure that these new ethnic businesses remain a long-term and sustainable feature of life on the street. Already, the turnover of businesses is quite high: shops and restaurants appear to change names and shop fronts at a steady rate and the diversity of businesses on the street is diminishing. In fact, Parnell Street East exhibits all the qualities of a transient immigrant district, constantly changing and adapting to meet the demands of each new community as it arrives. That this has happened over a relatively short period of time (less than 10 years) is testament to the dynamic and evolving pace of life in Dublin, which has undergone radical social change in recent decades. However, the transient nature of businesses on the street also present a series of challenges to the fabric of the street; particularly given the street’s historical significance and its relationship to the quality streetscapes of the adjoining North Georgian Core.


It is clear from even casual observation of the street that some businesses change use or undertake development of their premises without recourse to the planning system. This has led to the rather chaotic appearance of the street, with little effort made to promote quality or to integrate shop fronts and signage with their sensitive surroundings. The regular turnover of users has also caused degradation to the fabric of many buildings - short-term tenants have little interest in undertaking capital improvements to a whole building and simply concentrate on the ground floor units they occupy. Despite half the street’s location with the O’Connell Street & Environs ACA and ASPC, the quality of many of the upper floor façades of buildings remains poor with the loss of historic building elements such as joinery, windows and decorative masonry. In some instances, particularly along the southern section of the street, a number of buildings lie vacant and semi-derelict, while truncation remains a serious problem, with many sections blighted by unsustainable one and two-storey buildings.

Building truncation and dereliction on the street’s southern side.

4: Assessment of the Street in its Current Condition

Compounding the challenge posed by poorly maintained buildings is the condition of the public realm. The public realm encompasses everything from pavements, street lighting, street furniture (such as bollards, benches, litter bins, etc) municipal signage and greening features such as street trees and planters.

with pedestrians afforded only narrow strips of paving on either side. Buses too are an oppressive feature, with a number of routes “laying over� on the street, rather than continuing on their journey, meaning parked buses visually dominate the street at various times of the day.

The public realm of the street is dismal when one considers its location off the premier thoroughfare of a European capital city. The pavements along the street are narrow and poorly maintained, and totally devoid of greenery, creating a harsh environment. Street lighting and street furniture is ugly and utilitarian and poorly coordinated.

All these problems combine to generate an air of decay and urban blight, which in turn fosters perceptions of an anti-social environment that is off-putting to seasoned Dubliners and city visitors alike. The moniker of an unsafe street may well be unwarranted, however the perception of an unwelcoming street environment is often easy to engender and difficult to dispel.

Traffic is a dominant feature on Parnell Street East. The street forms part of what was termed the Inner Tangent Route of the 1970s, and the disastrous effects of road-widening to create this route can be seen at Summerhill and on the western section of Parnell Street. While the streetscape of Parnell Street East survived the demolition associated with other stretches of the Inner Tangent Route, the broad width of the street is now almost entirely commandeered by traffic,

In order for its newfound vibrancy not to be lost, the quality of the street environment must improve and property owners and businesses on the street must work in a concerted manner to develop Parnell Street East as a quality destination within the city centre.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

The Street: Section by Section South side from O’Connell Street to Marlborough Street This is one of the most blighted sections of the street. Here, the remaining ordered terrace of four-storey buildings gives way to a broken and truncated streetscape culminating with Nos. 9294, formerly The Welcome Inn, which creates a visually weak corner onto Marlborough Street. The streetscape is degraded by a range of problems including the poor physical condition of most buildings, vacancy and dereliction, inappropriate treatments to façades such as garish paintwork or heavy-handed rendering, the loss of traditional elements such as timber sash windows, and a poor balance and mix of uses.

This section of the street was targeted for investment under the O’Connell Street Integrated Area Plan of the late 1990s, but to very limited effect. The most obvious new intervention is the hulking hotel development at Nos. 83-85, which returns to Findlater Place to the south. Permissions to develop other sites along this section of the street were never implemented. This section of the streetscape holds the most potential for sensitive rehabilitation, interspersed with some new contemporary developments. However, it is imperative that the measured grain and plot width of the street here is protected and that new development brings coherence to the terrace, rather than simply dominating it.

The pavement along this section of the street is narrow and unattractive, littered with broken paving slabs and discordant paving styles. Street lighting is of a similarly poor quality.

Parnell Street East as viewed from Parnell Monument. Poorly presented building façades predominate. 30

The Protected Structures at Nos. 76-78 are some of the most interesting buildings on the street, but also among the most vulnerable. Apart from the bookmakers shop at No. 76, the buildings are unused and now boarded up. Further decay is inevitable if efforts are not made by Dublin City Council to identify the owners and seek remedial works.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

South side from Marlborough Street to Cumberland Street This is the most incoherent and damaged section of the street, with a number of its buildings truncated to one storey or simply “jerry-built” to provide a ground floor commercial unit. However, ironically, this part of the street is also the most vibrant with a whole parade of lively oriental businesses jostling for the attention of the passerby. Beyond the clutter of signage and shop fronts lies the remains of an attractive terrace of historic buildings, including a number of Protected Structures. With careful intervention, a more attractive and fitting streetscape could be created here. This section has added importance due to the large development sites to the rear, fronting onto both Marlborough Street and Cumberland Street.

■ The behemoth of the Marlborough House (Eircom building) looms above Marlborough Street, with the potential for a more active street frontage onto that street. To the rear of the building lies a sizeable area, accessible from Britain Place, which is currently given over to car parking and small light industrial buildings.

■ The former social welfare office on Cumberland Street dates from the mid-20th century and has long blighted the street with its shuttered and unkempt appearance. Whilst the building remains in use, the location of social welfare and office use on this primarily residential street is considered inappropriate and the site should be considered for redevelopment. Taken as a whole, this block offers enormous potential to be developed into an intensive mixed use quarter, with residential development fronting onto North Cumberland Street (reinforcing that street’s role), with an attractive and recreated streetscape onto Parnell Street East. The large inner part of the site could be opened up with new pedestrian links to create an cluster of small shops and restaurants, allowing for the expansion of the emerging oriental quarter on Parnell Street East.


4: Assessment of the Street in its Current Condition

South and North sides from Cumberland Street to Middle Gardiner Street This is the most modern portion of the street, with most buildings dating from the 1990s or the early 2000s. Apartment developments dominate here and provide the residential population which uses the shops and services of the street. In general, the quality of the new architecture is bland and uninspiring, although an effort has been made to maintain the dominant brick idiom of the older part of the street. The most historically significant structure is the former St. Peter’s Bakery, which now functions as a business centre. Despite the relative newness of purposebuilt buildings here, most businesses present poorly to the street and the streetscape has a low grade and uninviting appearance. Parnell Street East narrows between the Marlborough Street and Gardiner Street junctions, and once again the quality and width of the pavements make the pedestrian experience uncomfortable. This part of the street would benefit greatly from a soft buffer of trees and street planting.

North side from Hill Street to O’Connell Street This is the most historically intact and engaging section of Parnell Street East, encompassing most of the remaining original buildings of the street and retaining the recognisable plot widths and fine grain of 18th century streetscapes. The terrace comprises mainly four and five storey brick townhouses with a smattering of 20th century additions. The use of brick predominates and many buildings still retain traditional features such as timber sash windows, ironmongery and even a surviving Georgian doorcase at No. 146. In terms of uses, this part of the street has the most diversity with a broad range of shops, bars and restaurants interspersed with local services. Nonetheless, in spite of the strength of its streetscape, a number of problems require resolution along this northern part of the street.

Efforts are required by businesses along this section to clean and improve their shop fronts and building entrances.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

The elegant spire of St George’s Church viewed from North Cumberland Street. Francis Johnston’s masterpiece stands in stark contrast to the lower quality modern build and assorted 34 municipal clutter of signage poles and streetlamps.

4: Assessment of the Street in its Current Condition

Of most pressing importance is the poor quality of the public realm: comprised of narrow and unattractive pavements formed of a range of discordant materials such as mass concrete and drab and dated paving slabs, and pockmarked with tarmac patches. However, the width of the street at this point combined with the pleasant sunny aspect of this section of pavement creates a significant opportunity to redefine and recreate public space on the street. The pavement here could quite easily be extended to double its existing width without any measureable impact on traffic flow. The increased space would allow for outdoor life to flourish with the potential for outdoor seating for cafés and colourful market stalls, adding to the retail mix of the street. Bus and coach parking is most concentrated along this stretch and efforts must be made to regulate and rationalise the provision of bus stops, as well as allowing for new facilities such as

shelters and real time passenger information, and to remove the practice of buses “laying over” on the street whilst out of service. Buildings too require intervention and vision. Most façades are poorly presented but would benefit enormously from modest cleaning and repair of brickwork, the reinstatement of traditional timber windows and a concerted effort by building owners and tenants to introduce harmonious, good quality shop fronts. Improving this stretch of the street is the easiest to realise and would not require significant development works. The small number of truncated buildings which do exist must be tackled with high quality infill, but for the most part the required improvements involve maintaining and refurbishing what is here, rather than wholesale rehabilitation or rebuilding.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Streets without Function

North Cumberland Street

Surrounding Residential Streets One of the least realised failings of many city centre streets, particularly those on the north side of the River Liffey, is the ambiguity surrounding function. Certain streets in the city centre have always been intended to serve as mixed use, accommodating everything from shops to offices to services such as cafÊs, restaurants and bars. The commercial vibrancy of the centre is dependent on streets such as Talbot Street or Henry Street accommodating a multitude of different uses. Hence, the buildings, ground floor frontages and public realm of these thoroughfares are all dictated by their function within the city centre hierarchy of streets. Equally, however, many streets in the centre are intended primarily for residential use. Much of the North Georgian Core for example was laid out as a residential suburb. These residential streets, whether lined with fine 18th century terraces or 20th century flat complexes, are important environments for their city centre inhabitants. Yet in many instances these streets offer an urban environment far inferior to the average suburban housing estate. Parnell Street East is surrounded by a number of secondary streets which together comprise the residential hinterland feeding life into the main commercial thoroughfare. Yet two of these streets, North Cumberland Street and Hill Street, typify streets in the city centre where the overwhelmingly residential function of the street goes largely unrecognised or is compromised by commercial and even light industrial development; and where the public realm has not been adapted to the needs of the primary users of the street, for example with wider tree planted pavements. By contrast, North Great George’s Street, which also runs northward from Parnell Street East, functions as one of the best examples of a residential street in the city centre. This is largely due to the strength of the streetscape, where most houses are given over to single occupancy use or set out as smart city centre apartments. 36

The short stretch of Cumberland Street includes a number of apartment buildings, including an attractive City Council flat complex dating from the 1950s. However, visually, the street is dominated by the barricaded frontage of the former social welfare offices on its western side, replete with steel security grills across its windows. The public realm on the street is given over largely to parking and no effort has been made to arrange the street in a manner more conducive to residential life: serving instead as a rat run for traffic entering the north inner city. At weekends, the street is taken over by a chaotic and low-grade flea market which regularly leaves the pavements in filthy condition. This incompatible combination of uses residential, ofice and poor quality street market offers few benefits to either the street or its residents. There is no sense of quality of life about the street and little encouragement to express civic or community pride.

4: Assessment of the Street in its Current Condition

Hill Street Hill Street is an historic thoroughfare: its earliest incarnation was as a laneway serving old St. George’s Church (replaced in 1802 by Francis Johnson’s masterpiece on Hardwicke Place), whose rubble stone bell tower still stands at the southern end of the street. The route later became the mews lane serving the stables of North Great George's Street in the latter part of the 18th century.

Whereas a consistent and active frontage should have been developed along the western side of the street, with architecturally strong entrances and clever design of ground floors to maximise privacy and residential amenity, a haphazard approach appears to have prevailed, leading to unsatisfactory outcomes such as small unimposing doorways and stranded commercial units along the street.

With the break up of the Gardiner Estate in the 19th century, Hill Street fell into mainly light industrial use, in common with a number of streets in the area including a large part of the western section of Parnell Street. This pattern of land use continued until quite recently, although some social housing was constructed along its eastern side in the second half of the 20th century.

The public realm has also been largely ignored, despite the significant development levies generated by the new development. While the street itself is wide, the pavements on either side remain narrow, and the generous expanse of road surface encourages traffic to speed along the street. High levels of parking prevail along the sides and there are no opportunities for the community to congregate or for children to play in a safe and slow environment. There are no trees or attractive areas of green space. The children’s play area beside the tower of Old St. George’s is largely hidden from the street and has been designed with durability rather than attractiveness in mind.

In recent years, a number of new residential developments have been permitted on Hill Street, however, in the absence of an overarching design framework, this pattern of development has not been successful in creating a good quality residential district.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street



A Vision for Parnell Street East Parnell Street East has many inherent strengths. Much of the street’s historic 18th and 19th century building stock remains intact and this contributes greatly to the attractive human scale of the street and to its memorable sense of place. The street has an excellent location off the top of the city’s main thoroughfare and adjacent to many of the city's most important cultural and tourist attractions. It has a busy and vibrant commercial life, dominated by oriental restaurants and ethnic shops and businesses, and is increasingly recognised as a centre for the city’s Asian community. In addition, the street has a large local resident population; is close to a major third level institution; and is within striking distance of the retail centre of the north city on Henry Street. To capitalise on these strengths, Parnell Street East must develop itself as a quality destination with a distinctive product. The street must be actively managed and investment must be incentivised and targeted. The key stakeholders on the street - its residents, business community, and Dublin City Council must work together to realise a vision for the thoroughfare as a high quality commercial street of distinctive shops, restaurants, bars and other businesses.


Parnell Street East 2020 is an enclave for much of Dublin’s Asian community with a wealth of attractive and authentic oriental restaurants, offering everything from sushi bars to curry houses, interspersed with quality neighbourhood shops and services. Stylish and smart shop fronts showcase imaginative Asian design that works in harmony with the street’s historic streetscape, while older buildings have been carefully repaired and restored.

Pedestrians enjoy a pleasant and attractive street, with generous pavements and smart, contemporary street lighting and furniture. Rows of formally planted lime trees suggest continuity with adjoining O’Connell Street and Parnell Square. Café life thrives along the northern section of the street, where pavement widths also allow for small market stalls and shop displays. An enclave of boutiques, craft shops and galleries with a lively oriental flavour has developed between Marlborough Street and Cumberland Street with striking new Asian-fusion architecture surrounding a new public space. The diversity of city life and culture is celebrated on the street with regular events throughout the year such as Chinese New Year and Diwahli celebrations, Culture Night and informal restaurant evenings and arts events.

CafÊ life in South Kensington, London, an area not too dissimilar from Parnell Street and Dublin’s North Georgian Core. These businesses benefit from their proximity to the great cultural institutions in the area as well as serving local residents. 39

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Buildings Improvements: Section by Section South side from O’Connell Street to Marlborough Street This important section of the street lies wholly within the O’Connell Street Architectural Conservation Area and so any development or rehabilitation of buildings must take cognisance of the various ACA policies. Nos. 76-78 Parnell Street The most significant buildings on this stretch are the Georgian houses at Nos. 76-78, all of which are listed as Protected Structures. Ironically, given their status, these properties are in perhaps the poorest condition of any on the street and most recently have had their windows boarded up, reinforcing the sense of terminal decline. However, these properties are by no means beyond rehabilitation. The current rendered finish to the façades was added at a later date in the buildings’ history, and covers their original high Nos. 76-78 (right) in 2009 prior to the removal and replacement of their failing render finish. This was the ideal opportunity to restore their fine historic brick façades. The removal of paint from the brickwork of Nos. 80-82 (left), a group of good late Georgian houses, is also desirable.


quality red brick façades. Until quite recently the render had degraded to the point where it could have been easily removed, revealing the brick beneath. However a heavy render was reapplied to all three buildings in 2010, and this unfortunately represented a missed opportunity for these properties. Opposite Page: Nos. 76-78 shown fully restored with their render removed, repointed brick façades and reinstated timber sash windows - all dramatically altering our perception of this currently drab section of the street. The plot divisions of the houses have been denoted through subtle variations in brick pointing treatment and a variety of timber shop fronts at ground floor level. The legibility of No. 77 as a grand townhouse has been restored with the reinsertion of a pedimented stone doorcase in its original position, while commercial activity happily coexists alongside. The economic viability of the buildings can be further secured through the sensitive adaption of the upper floors to residential or commercial use. with separate access from the street as depicted.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Nos. 79-82 Parnell Street The process of sensitive cleaning and repair could continue further along this part of the street, with the removal of the garish painted finish of the Gate Hotel, again restoring the original appearance of these buildings. The investment made in restoring the brickwork would pay off over the longer term by negating the need to regularly repaint the building and by enhancing the appeal and attractiveness of the hotel. A wider attention to detail is also required, with the reinstatement of traditional timber sash windows and the repair and improvement of the hotel’s quite attractive ground floor frontage. The clever use of simple features such as a carefully chosen colours and the incorporation of planting and ornamental lighting into the shop front, would also dramatically enhance the frontage and provide a smart and appealing street presence.

Marlborough Street - Creating a Stronger Corner One of the weakest physical aspects of the streetscape of Parnell Street East is its junction with Marlborough Street. The coherent 18th century terraces which existed right into the mid- 20th century (see page 12) have today been eroded so that on its western flank the street falls to a poor quality single-storey building formerly known as the Welcome Inn, while the east side is also much diminished and truncated. The large monolithic office building of Marlborough House dominates the east side, while two remaining townhouses which adjoin it have been reduced down to two storeys and have lost much of the finesse and quality of their original appearance. Restoring the visual coherence of this corner should be a long term objective, requiring stitching back on the eastern corner and new construction on the western side. The former Welcome Inn is particularly suited to contemporary infill which could also include the Westbrook Motors property (Nos. 89-90). A varied and interesting design is required, which makes use of the existing plot widths and creates a terrace of four to five storeys. Opposite Page: The junction with Marlborough Street presents one of the most scarred and broken stretches of Parnell Street East. The reinstatement of the truncated properties on the east side of Marlborough Street to their original height and grandeur, as pictured opposite, provides a fitting entrance to Parnell Street and greatly enhances the staggered junction which leads onto North Great George’s Street. Façades have been cleaned of paint and re-pointed, sash windows have been reinstated, and new high quality shop fronts address this prominent junction in an appropriate manner. In the foreground, the low-scale former Welcome Inn has been redeveloped with a contemporary building that acknowledges the street corner through its façade treatment, including a public gallery that takes in fine views of numerous streets.



Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

South side from Cumberland Street




The bustling parade of restaurants which lines this part of the street occupies a range of largely low grade and truncated buildings which fail to provide a coherent urban form. This stretch is ripe for reinvention and redevelopment, however, some of the older buildings here remain valuable elements within the historic streetscape, which with some careful intervention, can be successfully rehabilitated and restored to their original quality appearance. Four properties along this part of the street are designated as Protected Structures: Nos. 97, 98, 99 and 103.

form and materials which predominate on the street and should seek to integrate and enhance the wider streetscape, rather than dominate and undermine the existing built heritage.

The focus for older properties should be to clean and restore brick faรงades that have suffered from over-painting, degradation through pollution or the erosion of pointing. The profusion of signage and visual clutter along this stretch should also be addressed and efforts made to create a more orderly and sophisticated appearance at pavement level. However, other parts of the streetscape will require reconstruction and it is here that imagination and an appreciation of context are required. It is not necessary to recreate the past new buildings should generally be representative of their time. However, any contemporary infill should consider the heights, plot widths, built

Above & Below Left: Examples of good quality historic buildings along the southern side of the street. Opposite Page: This currently poor quality stretch of streetscape, lined with service structures of a temporary nature, has been completely re-imagined with an elegant contemporary building that responds to its context. The established parapet height of the street is reflected in the clean lines of the new building, while an additional storey subtly rises at the corner in acknowledgement of the entrance to Cumberland Street. A kink in the building line adds visual interest and creates a more dynamic relationship with the flanking public realm. On the faรงade, alternating panels of windows, balconies and timber cladding make reference to the traditional fenestration patterns of the street. Truncated historic buildings in the distance have also been notionally reassembled and restored and the public realm improved.



Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

�莊 : The Village A new Mixed Use Quarter with a Twist The large urban block bounded by Parnell Street, North Cumberland Street, Marlborough Street and Cathal Brugha Street offers considerable potential to be developed in a manner that creates a restored streetscape onto Parnell Street, properly defines North Cumberland Street as a residential city street, and provides for the expansion and imaginative development of ethnic commercial life in the area. The Village concept envisages a traditional streetscape surrounding a new oriental enclave along the lines of the traditional Chinese practice of Hutongs, or buildings set around a central courtyard. The Village would showcase Asian architecture and design and serve as a restaurant and shopping emporium, drawing visitors to the area and creating a highly distinctive and memorable experience on Parnell Street. The development would allow ethnic businesses to intensify on Parnell Street without unduly impacting on the sensitive surrounding streets and historic area. Most importantly, The Village would offer an opportunity to the new Asian communities of the area to express their cultural distinctiveness and creativity, serving to firmly establish this emerging ethnic business community.


Below: Hutongs are a traditional building type most commonly associated with Beijing in China, where alleys are formed by lines of siheyuan, or traditional courtyard residences. Many neighbourhoods are formed by joining one siheyuan to another to form a hutong, and then joining one hutong to another. Hutongs are characterised by their neat and orderly appearance and are generally constructed in line with the principles of feng shui. Traditional hutongs are often low-scale, but the style could be extrapolated to create an interesting four or five-storey complex with uses on different levels, all facing onto an ornate courtyard.

5: Suggestions for Improvements

A: A restored streetscape is envisaged here of four and five-storey buildings, retaining and restoring existing historic and truncated buildings, and replacing poorer quality low-level structures with good contemporary infill. The existing fine grain and scale of Parnell Street East is retained and respected. Commercial uses predominate at ground floor with residential use above. B: Britain Place is remodelled as a new pedestrian street opening onto a new restaurant and shopping complex called The Village, in a style inspired by a traditional Chinese hutong. Four and five-storey buildings surrounding an attractive courtyard showcasing imaginative Asian fusion architecture, creating a highly original and exciting city centre destination and giving expression to the new communities establishing in the area. C: A residential development replaces the existing social welfare offices, firmly establishing the function of Cumberland Street as a residential street supporting its commercial neighbour. Britain Place redeveloped as a new entrance into “The Village”

Parnell Street East - development of an oriental restaurant street. Asian influences encouraged within a restored and respected historic streetscape

North Cumberland Street - permitted to develop as a “slow” residential street. Traffic curtailed, public realm enhanced and “greened”.

A C B Marlborough House Commercial

Existing Residential (unaffected)

Marlborough Street - primarily office use. Potential location for the new Parnell Luas stop. 47

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

North side from Hill Street to O’Connell Street This is the most coherent and historically intact section of streetscape on Parnell Street East and is also the most diverse, in terms of the range and types of its businesses and shops. While a number of problems present themselves on this part of the street, they are all possible to address at relatively modest cost to property owners. Individual initiatives such as cleaning and repointing brickwork, reinstating features such as timber sash windows, and replacing or simply refurbishing shop fronts would significantly improve the appearance of buildings along this part of the street. However, undertaking these works in a coordinated effort would transform the entire street and significantly improve the perception of Parnell Street East to the wider city. Most buildings here simply suffer from issues associated with poor maintenance, rather than the more significant problems of truncation and dereliction found elsewhere on Parnell Street East. The magic of façade repair and restoration could reveal a handsome and highly engaging terrace of buildings which would serve to showcase the range of businesses which operate at street level. Properties such as Nos. 146, The Bunkhouse, indicate the quality of brick façades along the street and demonstrate the attractiveness and transformative effect of traditional timber sash windows where correctly reinstated.

Another noticeable aspect of the streetscape along this section is the extent of shuttering of premises for large parts of the day. External shutters are often installed by property owners in response to a perception that their street is unsafe. However, solid shutters create a dead and lifeless appearance (this is particularly apparent in the morning, when streets should be coming to life) and in many cases actually contribute to the unsafe perception of an area. It is recommended that a policy of installing internally-mounted open grille (or chain link) shutters behind the display windows of premises be adopted on Parnell Street East. This would create a more welcoming environment on the street and work with other elements such as shop front renewal and façade renovation to create a more appealing and attractive streetscape. It also allows for illuminated window displays after dark. Businesses should also give consideration to how their window displays are presented. A large, clean, glazed frontage that showcases merchandise or services is often a more effective advertisement for a business than a plethora of projecting signage. Artful window displays add animation and visual interest to the street and reinforce the passerby’s perception of quality. The cleanliness of upper floor windows is equally important. Other features such as ornamental lighting, awnings, planters and baskets also serve to enhance and improve the frontages of businesses. Opposite Page: The promenade of shops along the northern side of the street, which currently features poor quality shop fronts, external shuttering and a clutter of signage, could be transformed into an attractive parade of restaurants and cafés. This is the sunny side of the street, where well managed outdoor dining could thrive under pleasant shop awnings and well designed seating. In the proposed vista pictured opposite, the pavement has been widened, trees have been planted and upper floor façades have been restored through the removal of paint from brickwork and the reinsertion of timber sash windows.


5: Suggestions for Improvements


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street


Opposite Page: This handsome group of Georgian townhouses has been partially restored in recent years to a high standard, with new, correctly detailed late Georgian type sash windows being particularly of note. With some final adjustments, this could present one of the most attractive groupings of properties on the street.

5: Suggestions for Improvements

In the bottom image, the recent improvement of The Bunkhouse has been augmented with a de-cluttered shop front on the corner with North Great George’s Street and traditionally wigged (pointed) brick façades above. The render has been entirely stripped from the far left-hand building at No. 147 and its brickwork restored. Timber sash windows have been reinstated and a new shop front installed, whose design takes account of the proportions of the upper floors. The pavement has also been substantially widened and regularly spaced deciduous trees soften the streetscape.

Above & Left: This pair of buildings near the junction with Hill Street present entirely different yet compatible bedfellows - the property on the left dating to the early 19th century and the striking modernist building to the left of c. 1950s vintage. In spite of differences in age and style, both share similar strong proportions, simple clean lines, and employ good quality materials in their façades. In the improved vista to the left, the modernist building has been given a new lease of life, with its cluttered white aluminium windows replaced with contemporary frameless glazing and attractive timber cladding applied to the window aprons. A simple awning and tidy-up has been given to the shop front. A

The historic building’s brick façade has been sensitively re-pointed and colourwashed using traditional Irish wigging and dying. Elegant timber sash windows have been reinserted and the shop front improved. 51

The pavement has also been widened reusing historic granite and trees planted.

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Before & After: This stretch along the north side of Parnell Street East is currently blighted by truncation. In the proposed scene, a new building with garden terraces has been erected behind a contemporary brick faรงade that evokes the proportions of Georgian architecture with a series of crisp opes in place of traditional windows. The pavement has also been substantially widened, elegant trees planted and shop fronts improved.

A perspective of the reconstructed corner buildings at the junction with Marlborough Street. The highly distinctive octagonal bow window terminates the view down North Great Georges Street. 52

5: Suggestions for Improvements

Before & After: The Marlborough Street corner before and after reinstatement of its truncated upper storeys. Its dramatic central octagonal bay window addressing the vista of North Great George’s Street has been restored to its original Georgian design concept, while appropriate shop fronts have been inserted at pavement level. The post office building has also been improved with timber sash windows and brick cleaning.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Three Common Problems… and Their Solutions

1. Brickwork and Building Façades Historic brickwork deteriorates over time in both appearance and structural integrity, but unlike many modern materials it can be successfully renewed.

− The removal of paint from brickwork is an expert

Some common problems include: ■ Painting of brickwork ■ Polluted and sullied brickwork ■ Deteriorated brick faces and pointing ■ 20th century cement pointing or application of render over brickwork ■ Re-faced attic storeys or localised repairs using incorrect brick

− Brick can be successfully cleaned by using water spray

2. Visual Clutter: A problem common to many of Dublin’s commercial streets can be seen along the length of Parnell Street East - arrays of cabling, lighting, alarm boxes and signage scarring the façades of historic buildings, much of it redundant or no longer in use. These elements detract from the often finely detailed upper floors of historic buildings and spoil the wider streetscape. More subtly invasive is electrical and television cabling strung down façades or trunked above shop fronts, while projecting floodlighting and fascia lighting is often bulky and cumbersome.

− Cumulatively, these elements have an untidy and

3. Historic windows requiring restoration are commonplace along the street, as is the inappropriate replacement of historic windows with modern uPVC and aluminium equivalents. This latter practice has a degrading impact on street architecture. Not only do replacement windows lack the design elegance, depth and detailing of original sash and casement models, their top-hung parts protrude beyond the building line when opened, creating a cluttered and tawdry appearance as they accumulate in view along the street. Replacement windows also lack a design subtlety and harmonisation with surrounding brickwork and masonry - a careful composition so much a part of historic street architecture.

− Historic windows are rarely beyond repair, as they


process that can yield varying results, but if correctly executed can beautifully enhance a building. The most successful method involves using a poultice that dissolves and draws out paint from porous brickwork.

techniques and sometimes mild chemical cleaning. Both methods require specialist advice, with work carried out by experienced operatives.

− Re-pointing using correct historic techniques such as

wigging has the ability to transform the appearance of a façade where existing pointing has failed or has been inappropriately repaired in the past.

cluttering impact on the streetscape, so care and attention is required when adding new utilities or when undertaking refurbishment that might allow for the removal of redundant elements.

− A minimalist approach to fascia lighting, signage and utilities should be considered at all times to maintain the visual integrity of the streetscape.

− Dublin City Council, in consultation with owners and

utility companies, should consider a strategy for the reduction of existing cabling. This is especially pertinent during any repaving works on the street, where shared services can be laid underground.

typically employ good quality timber in their construction, with solid joints and well crafted sections. They can be entirely rehabilitated with relatively little financial outlay and fuss. The finished product looks beautiful, adds value to an historic building, dramatically improves the appearance of the streetscape, and has the potential to last for generations. Most of the typical gripes about sash windows, such as a lack of draught proofing, noise penetration, poor insulation and sticking can be addressed by sensitive modern repair techniques.

− Poor quality first generation replacement windows

should be replaced with accurate timber sashes and casements, using double-glazing only if appropriate. Internal shutters can provide excellent insulation.




A typical mid-terrace property on the north side of Parnell Street East. 55

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

The Importance of Shop Fronts A successful business depends to a great extent on how it presents itself to the public. In turn, the success of a street depends on a harmonious relationship between its shop fronts and their buildings, as the appearance, form and authenticity of retail frontages injects vitality and interest into the shopping experience. The importance of attention to detail with doors, windows, ironmongery and materials used is essential when replacing or refurbishing frontages. The encroachment of the standardised high street shop front and poorly designed reproduction fronts, which are often out of proportion to the faรงade of a building, with oversized facia boards and brash corporate colours, significantly diminishes the overall character and quality of a street. Shop fronts are a critical part of architectural expression on a commercial street like Parnell Street East. While very few historic shop fronts survive today, the principle of good quality, well proportioned design that acts in harmony with upper floor faรงades is equally applicable to modern retail outlets and businesses. Traditionally, timber was used as a shop front facing material on Parnell Street in the 18th and 19th centuries, although most of these quality shop fronts were lost in a wave of change in the 20th century. In latter years, many retailers have installed shop fronts with little consideration for the choice of materials or design, which are out of harmony with the context of neighbouring shops. A good many shop fronts lack a sense of refinement, are tatty and dated, and suffer from the use of materials such as plastic and aluminium which ages poorly. Newer shop fronts have been finished with featureless stone frontages which often ignore the upper faรงade of the building. In addition, a profusion of projecting signage and oversized fascias further clutters the streetscape and degrades the visual appearance of buildings.


Above: Examples of poor quality shop fronts along Parnell Street East which contribute to its down-at-heel appearance.

5: Suggestions for Improvements

Asian Fusion: Is there a case for a unique approach to shop front design on Parnell Street East? The prevalence of ethnic businesses on Parnell Street East has added an additional dimension to the design and presentation of buildings on the street. At present, the design of many of the street’s newer shop fronts stands poles apart from the character of its older buildings, as most businesses have chosen to ignore the historic context of their host properties when installing new shop fronts. The growth of ethnic businesses in the city, and the subsequent marrying of foreign design values and practices with vernacular Dublin architecture, continues to present a challenge to the built environment which has not yet been effectively tackled. Perhaps Parnell Street East offers an opportunity to address how a new business community adapts to an established city centre street with an important historic streetscape - an issue which is largely being ignored. There is considerable scope to encourage businesses to devise new approaches to shop fronts, window displays, signage and other features, while respecting the overall historic context of their buildings. The opportunity of identifying “Design Champions” among the street’s ethnic communities should be considered, offering an opportunity to Asian architects and designers working in the city to devise innovative solutions to shop fronts along the street. A proactive approach on the part of city planners and architects could reap considerable benefits to Parnell Street East, while also informing how this issue can be addressed elsewhere in the city. The principles of best practice design of vernacular shop fronts can be respected while allowing for innovation and stylish reworking.

Above: Some examples of well presented shop fronts can be found on the street.

Partnership rather than enforcement may prove a more effective means of achieving a quality streetscape on Parnell Street East.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Principles of Good Shop Front Design Generally, shops have certain qualities in common: ■ Location on the ground floor - highly visible to the passerby ■ Goods displayed through large, usually glazed frontages, with advertising and signage ■ Requirement to be fully accessible to the public during hours of operation ■ Seek to be secure outside of business hours, often via shutters, security measures etc.

SECURITY - it should not be underestimated the degree to which security shutters engender an unsafe feeling on a street, particularly at night quite the opposite to their intended function of reducing crime. If absolutely required, security grills should be of the open mesh variety and set behind the shop window to maintain the shop display when the shop is closed.

There are no hard and fast rules to how a shop front might be designed to incorporate these qualities, however there are a number of principles recognised as the means of creating a smart and aesthetically pleasing shopping environment. These include: DESIGN - a design which responds positively to host building and upper floors in terms of scale, detailing and character. MATERIALS - the use of good quality and durable materials which contribute to the overall quality of the surrounding street environment. For example, timber shop fronts with simple, well proportioned detailing complement the modest building stock of many city centre secondary streets, while stronger materials such as stone work best on grander thoroughfares. COLOUR - a good design can be spoiled by a poor choice of colour, while even a non-descript design can be lifted by the right choice. Aggressive and brash colours are effective at highlighting one shop among its neighbours but cumulatively can have the effect of degrading the whole streetscape. A carefully selected muted palette is often more successful than a range of gaudy colours. SIGNAGE - signage should be restrained. The limited application of signage can create an altogether more harmonious streetscape, where individually mounted lettering is usually more visually appealing that plastic board signage. Internally illuminated box fascias and projecting signage add to the visual clutter of streets. 58

A number of agencies and Dublin City Council documents provide advice and recommendations on good shop front design. The 2003 Shop Front Design Guidelines published by Dublin City Council sets out the principles of good design in a clear and accessible manner and retailers are now encouraged to consult the Guidelines when making up their plans. Dublin Civic Trust can also impartial advice and guidance.


5: Suggestions for Improvements

A selection of high quality shop fronts displaying good use of colour, detail and design that are complementary to their buildings, including imaginative use of planting, awnings and outdoor seating, and high quality window displays or outdoor produce displays. Clockwise from Top Left: High Street, Glasgow - Borough Market Area, London - Old Town, Edinburgh - South Kensington, London Exchequer Street, Dublin.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

The ‘Beautiful Street’ Initiative A degree of competition can be highly effective in encouraging the businesses of an area to come together and improve the quality of their street. The ‘Beautiful Street’ Initiative is a suggestion for a renewed partnership between business and Dublin City Council to deliver a high quality public realm on Parnell Street East. The Initiative proposes that businesses, the Council and other interested parties work together to deliver a shared vision for the street as an attractive and inviting place. Capital investment on Parnell Street East undertaken by Dublin City Council, such as new paving, street lamps, or tree planting, would be reciprocated by businesses in that area with investment in their own properties such as improved shop fronts and signage, renovation of disused upper floors, or shared investment in new public art or floral and planting displays. The local business community could form a street partnership that would encourage building owners along the street to create the “right look” for their premises. One possible initiative is to devise a “Best Shop Front Competition”, with a prize awarded. Shared projects, such as installing planters or small box hedges at shop entrances, or lanterns and street lighting, could also be pursued. For larger scale improvement works, Dublin City Council could assist with site advice meetings and pre-planning consultations for works such as new shop fronts or upper floor façade improvement.


Simple Shop Front Improvement Measures A range of simple elements can be combined to enhance the presentation of shops and business along a street and to contribute to an overall impression of a welcoming and memorable shopping environment. Planters, bay trees and floral displays are all simple elements which immediately “green” and lift a shop entrance. For an even more spectacular effect, a coordinated approach can be taken along a street, unifying the streetscape and creating a memorable street feature. The choice of shop front colours is hugely important. Bright and garish colours jar with the pedestrian, while muted and complementary colours suggest quality and good taste. Solid aluminium or metal roller shutters create a dead appearance in the evening and should be replaced. Where shutters are deemed necessary, internally fitted lattice systems or chain link shutters located behind the glass frontage should be used. Awnings are a highly attractive element on a building, if correctly fitted. However, awnings should not be used to introduce further advertising into the public realm. Attractive window displays are an art in themselves and greater use of window displays and attractive outdoor displays of produce should be encouraged.

5: Suggestions for Improvements

A Tale of Two Dublin Shop Fronts...

Top and Above: Small, subtle differences mark out these two Dublin shop fronts from each other, even though they are situated only metres apart on Dame Street. The brash and bright orange of the top front jostles for attention on the street, whereas the more muted tone and elegant proportions of the lower frontage offer a more stylish and inviting appearance. 61

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Transforming our perceptions of the street High 62 quality shop fronts showcasing businesses


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

The Public Realm 1. Improving the Quality of Street Paving and Creating Pedestrian Space

Parnell Street East should be fully repaved using the simple idiom of concrete flags with traditional granite kerbing. The materials laid underfoot convey many subliminal messages to the pedestrian - about a sense of quality, about care and cleanliness, about spirit and vitality, about special locations; and hence are an important consideration for any city street. The pavements along Parnell Street East currently comprise of a hotch-potch of mass concrete paving combined with areas of stone and concrete flags. Traditional granite kerbing can be found, although it is not used consistently. Most of the paving is in very poor condition, with numerous broken and uneven sections. The street environment is quite clearly in need of significant improvement. While a higher quality treatment of the surfaces, such as granite to match that of nearby O’Connell Street, would be desirable, a well laid and maintained concrete flag surface would prove quite adequate to the needs of the street. Moreover, concrete flags are economical, durable and easy to maintain; are easy to move and replace; and, if properly laid, can offer an aesthetically pleasing and well proportioned aspect to the street environment. They can also be effectively combined with historic granite paving, of which some isolated examples remain on Parnell Street East. Right: The public realm along Parnell Street East is ugly and broken and clearly shows the signs of continual under-investment over the years. A radical improvement is required, as well as a greater degree of preference to pedestrians on the street, with wider pavements and improved crossing points.


5: Suggestions for Improvements

“The Promenade” The northern section of pavement from O’Connell Street to the junction with North Great George’s Street offers the most potential to accommodate a greater degree of on-street activity and al fresco life on Parnell Street East. The strength of the historic streetscape, the current diversity of uses, and the sunny southerly aspect of this section of pavement all combine to provide the ingredients needed to create an attractive pedestrian-focused space on the street. However, in order for outdoor life to happen, a far greater degree of space is required for pedestrians. This section of pavement should be generously widened. The impressive breadth of Parnell Street East means that widening pavements would not unduly impact of traffic flows on the street.

Existing narrow and unsightly northern pavement on Parnell Street East. The section is dominated by bus stops and parking and offers little to the primary street user - the pedestrian.

This section should be substantially widened and repaved, with distinctive trees planted and attractive street furniture installed. The widened footpaths would provide the perfect setting to relax and enjoy a refreshment, while also creating a leisure atmosphere suitable for outdoor dining. Well designed outdoor displays by shops would also add additional colour and animation to the street.

Right: Street life is encouraged on this section of closed street in New York. Simple features such as seating and planters help to create a more inviting peoplefocused environment.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

2. Greening the Street It is recommended that a distinctive tree species is planted in a formal boulevard style along Parnell Street East to imbue the street with a greater sense of civic grandeur. Green spaces, and street planting in general, are non-existent along Parnell Street East Yet trees and other plants can be used very effectively to create an attractive and inviting streetscape. Trees soften hard surfaces, provide protection from the elements in all seasons, filter air and light, and add the beauty of soft greenery to streets. In some areas, street trees or lush planting can have a major impact in defining sheltered spaces for people to congregate, contributing to an environment which is inviting for sitting, eating, visiting or just taking time to relax and enjoy one’s surroundings. The generous breadth of Parnell Street East lends itself to tree planting, however, street trees should be regularly pruned to create an ordered, sculptural appearance to the street. It is also important that tree planting takes cognisance of business and the need to preserve good visibility of parades of shop fronts and window displays. With the development of wider pavements, a range of other planting measures could also be employed to beautify the street, including installing planters or floral displays, or simply encouraging businesses to place a pair of clipped box hedges or bay trees at the entrances to their shops.

街道樹 Street Trees A distinctive Asian atmosphere could be engendered on Parnell Street East by using stylised Chinese or Japanese planting and street art, heightening the sense of place. Clipped shrubs, blossom and architectural planting are common features of Asian landscaping and design and could be adapted here to significantly improve the quality and “look” of the street.


A specimen from the avenue of oriental plane trees planted on nearby O’Connell Street.

A high quality public realm created on Parnell Street East. The north side of the street benefits from its sunny aspect and the strength and character of its architecture. 67

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

3. Quality Street Lighting and Street Furniture A coordinated approach to street furniture that promotes high quality design should be employed on Parnell Street East. Street furniture in the city centre should always be carefully considered. As explained in the Dublin Civic Trust document Defining Dublin’s Historic Core, street furniture in the city is “all too often chosen randomly and placed without consideration, leading to a mishmash of forms and styles”. Instead, street furniture should be used to enhance character and build identity. The current street lighting on Parnell Street East is ugly and utilitarian and fails to imbue the street with any civic quality. In contrast to many city streets, other street furniture such as bollards, signage, cycle racks, etc, has only been applied to a limited degree along the thoroughfare (perhaps reflecting its poor profile within the city). This forms a good basis from which to apply good quality street furniture based on need and contribution to the public realm, rather than as the result of uncoordinated actions by various Dublin City Council departments. A smart contemporary look should be adopted for Parnell Street East, based on the street furniture style employed on O’Connell Street. This will help to give coherence to the area. Elements of street furniture should be used sparingly:

■ Bollards should only be employed where there is a clear rationale for their use or where they contribute to an urban set piece.

■ A proliferation of traffic signage should be avoided. Where possible, traffic signage should be attached to existing signage poles or to lampposts. The option of securing some signs (for example parking information) to buildings should be explored. Redundant signage and empty signage poles encountered on the street should be removed.

■ Bus stops, and shelters where their need is identified, should be upgraded to a similar standard found elsewhere in city centre. 68

Top: A rusting street lamp on Cumberland Street typifies the poor standard of lighting and street furniture on Parnell Street East. Above: The distinctive, black-painted Scotch Standards found on North Great George’s Street lend a dignified air to their surroundings. Parnell Street East would benefit greatly from a high quality and consistent approach to street lighting and street furniture.

The array of contemporary street lighting recently deployed on O’Connell Street as part of its Integrated Area Plan public realm improvement works gives an indication of what can be achieved on a busy thoroughfare like Parnell Street East.

5: Suggestions for Improvements

A strong rhythm of well designed street lamps, coupled with tree planting and coordinated street furniture, are essential elements for fostering a dignified and civic atmosphere on a street. These are features currently lacking on Parnell Street East, leading to an incoherent streetscape that is largely devoid of a sense of place and identity.


Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street

Branding the Street Commercial streets in the city centre, such as Parnell Street East, are destinations as much as places in which to live. Visitors, workers and residents all experience a street differently, but there are certain factors that the local business community can control which can change and unify their perceptions of the street. These factors are combined to create a street brand. At its most basic, street branding is a marketing exercise, intended to enhance the attractiveness of an area for spending and investment. However, for branding to be effective it must be grounded in certain core values and it must be backed up by a tangible physical product. The brand must also be employed consistently to reinforce and communicate that Parnell Street East is an attractive and desirable destination street in the city. Street branding values for Parnell Street East could include :

It is recommended that a branding exercise be undertaken for the street to designate the area as Dublin’s “Oriental Food Quarter”. Perhaps this is a good time to be looking for some creative energy in Dublin. The business community on Parnell Street East should look at the potential of using locally-based marketing and design professionals to help devise a brand for the street and to advise on the look and presentation of properties.

QUALITY — both in terms of the physical environment and the range of businesses located there. This street should become THE place for good oriental food in Dublin and for an authentic Asian experience.

Moreover, shared marketing initiatives such as a website, a festival or a street fair would be highly effective in promoting the benefits of the area.

HERITAGE — this is an essential trait of Parnell Street East and the adjoining North Georgian Core. The quality of the 18th and 19th century city is difficult to recreate, and we should therefore protect and value the heritage we have.

In the longer term, however, the street must receive investment, and efforts must be made by stakeholders to improve the physical appearance of the street in order to create the “product” and provide substance to the brand.

STYLE — Parnell Street East needs an injection of style and visual interest to set it apart from other streets in the city. Style can be expressed in everything from the presentation of buildings, to shop fronts, window displays and interiors. Complementing restaurants with some quirky fashion shops, nail bars, salons and craft stores would enhance the appeal of the street and help to increase footfall and customer spend. SUCCESS — the street needs to strive for success, evolving and improving to make the street memorable, exciting and vibrant. New business ideas should be encouraged. 70

Transforming our perceptions of the street


Clean, green and attractive public realm

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street



Conclusion Parnell Street East can be a great commercial street. All of the ingredients are there to create a memorable and attractive city centre street with a distinctive range of businesses and services. The street has an advantageous location off the city’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, and is within a short walking distance of the main retail core around Henry Street. The street borders the fascinating North Georgian Core and the emerging cultural hub between Parnell Square and Mountjoy Square. The street itself retains an engaging mix of architecture, the basis upon which to develop high quality streetscapes which are so integral to people’s positive perception of city centre. Most importantly, the street has a vibrant commercial life with an authentic oriental flavour and a diverse, multi-ethnic community. With determination and shared vision, Parnell Street East can emerge as one of the most interesting areas in Dublin and an integral part of the city centre experience.


6: An Action Plan for Parnell Street East

Summary of Actions for the Street ■

A Street Partnership should be formed to devise a masterplan for Parnell Street East which develops the concept of an Oriental Food Quarter and considers how best to direct investment into the street.

A brand should be developed for the street and the area should be marketed and publicised through initiatives such as street festivals, market days and celebration of key events such as Chinese New Year.

The business community on Parnell Street East should become advocates for other developments in the area such as the expansion of cultural uses on Parnell Square and in the North Georgian Core. The increasing footfall to the area arising from higher numbers of visitors will ultimately benefit commercial life on the street.

The built heritage of Parnell Street East is among its most important physical assets and should be valued as such. These buildings create the distinctiveness, character and comfortable sense of scale and enclosure of the street, providing a reason to visit and linger. A range of improvements to historic buildings are proposed in this report, from façade restoration and reassembly, to the reinstatement of important features such as timber sash windows.

The potential for new contemporary infill development is recognised on the street. New buildings should seek to integrate with and enhance the wider streetscape, rather than dominate and undermine the existing built heritage.

The presentation of buildings along the street is a key concern of all businesses on Parnell Street East. A collective approach should be taken to improving the quality of façades, shop fronts and the public realm. Dublin City Council’s Shop Front Guidelines should be consulted and enforced and active measures should be taken to improve the visual attractiveness of business frontages.

Elements such as the colour of frontages, signage, fascia lighting, security shutters and window displays should all be carefully considered, and efforts made to coordinate the look of the street to create a more enticing and better quality environment. The potential of engaging a Design Champion for the street should be considered.

Significant refurbishment of the public realm is recommended including the widening and repaving of footpaths, tree planting and the installation of new street lighting. A programme of works should be pursued by Dublin City Council.

A “Promenade” should be developed from O’Connell Street to North Great George’s Street with outdoor cafés and dining, creating animation and on-street activity.

An alternative location for the proposed Parnell Luas stop to the front of Marlborough House is imperative if a health retail environment is to be maintained on the north “Promenade” section of Parnell Street East.

A diversity of uses on the street should be encouraged. The potential for small boutique stores and craft shops should be considered. The multi-ethnic appeal of the street should be protected and enhanced. 73

Parnell Street East: A Vision for an Historic City Centre Street


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