Saturday 1 November 2014

Filthy, dirty iconic Grafton Street an eyesore for summer tourists and shoppers

By Clodagh Sheehy

Published 25/06/2014 | 10:24

20 Jun 2014; General view of pavement works on Grafton Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
General view of pavement works on Grafton Street, Dublin. Picture: Caroline Quinn
Grafton Street rubbish
An overflowing litter bin in Grafton Street as repaving work continues. (Inset below) tourists Ulla and Kilian Karlsen from Leipzeig in Germany.

It should be the city’s most iconic street with high-end shops and an air of luxury.

Instead Grafton Street shoppers, at peak tourist season, are being treated to overflowing bins, clouds of dust and deafening noise as they negotiate their way through a maze of workmen’s barriers.

The street attracts more than 3.5 million tourists each year, but this week, the stunned look on the face of two dentists from Leipsig in Germany spoke volumes about their opinion of the city’s most fashionable destination.

Disbelief

Ulla and Kilian Karslen were in Ireland for the first time and simply could not believe that this was the capital city’s most chic street.

“It looks nothing like that. I cannot believe this is the case,” said Ulla,  turning to her husband to translate for her.

“But it does not even have any flowers,” added Kilian, who looked equally shocked by the idea that this was a showcase street.

The bigger traders say the temporary mess created by the street repaving will be worth it when the new surface is complete, sandblasted and sealed by the autumn of this year.

Smaller traders are not so sure.  Flower sellers who pay rents of €4,000 a year for their place on the sidewalk or stall holders who pay €2,000 say the mid grey granite is “a terrible colour, most unsuitable” and the parts already down are quite filthy.

The €4m repaving project started in June of last year. It was suspended over Christmas to allow for festive shopping and is now on schedule to finish in the autumn.

The granite paving slabs will be offset by specially-commissioned street furniture and lighting.

The aim is to provide “an appropriate design response” for the city’s premier shopping street in an area which has nine hotels and is seen as a thriving commercial district and major visitor centre.

Progress

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said they were “working closely with local businesses and continuously informing them of the works as they progress”.

He added that the project was “of considerable importance for one of Dublin’s premier streets and will have considerable benefits for Dublin”.

Some Dubliners walking through the street are yet to be convinced. 

Gerard Greene from Fairview remembers a time when Grafton Street used to be so beautiful. 

“It had much classier shops, it was lovely, nothing like this. Buses used to come up and down, there was no music and you had shops like Switzers.

“It’s supposed to be a fashionable street but Henry Street is much classier now,” he concluded.

Joel Jacob from Kerala in India has a different opinion.

He told the Herald that although the renovations of some of the buildings and the paving take away from the beauty of the street but it still has appeal.

“I love the combination of the shops and the music from the buskers. It’s different from Temple Bar, which is all about pubs,” he said.

Litter

In the meantime, the half a million people who walk along the pedestrianised street each week have to negotiate their way around street works and overflowing litter.

Even conversation can be difficult above  the deafening noise of the stone cutting which throws up clouds of granite dust.

Businesses say the renovation work has undoubtedly caused disruption for shoppers but they have not seen any drop off in trade. Their hope is that this  project will be worth it in the longer term, increasing the attraction of Grafton Street as a vibrant, upmarket shopping area and the most important retail street in Dublin.

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