Sunday 20 May 2018

New developments totalling €890m in pipeline for Dublin's Liberties

Jack Teeling of The Teeling Whiskey Company; John Cashman of Kilbeggan Distilling Company; Aisling Worth of Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company Alltech and; Seamus Lowry, Whiskey Ambassador at Irish Distillers, at the announcement of Whiskey Weeks last October. The industry has become a key player in the Liberties. Photo: Chris Bellew
Jack Teeling of The Teeling Whiskey Company; John Cashman of Kilbeggan Distilling Company; Aisling Worth of Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company Alltech and; Seamus Lowry, Whiskey Ambassador at Irish Distillers, at the announcement of Whiskey Weeks last October. The industry has become a key player in the Liberties. Photo: Chris Bellew

Donal Buckley

MORE than €890m worth of new developments are in the pipeline or near completion in the Liberties area of Dublin – a remarkable investment in inner city projects across a range of sectors including tourism, healthcare, digital media, distilling, brewing and student accommodation.

To ensure the success of the projects and encourage further spin-offs, Dublin City Council (DCC) is investing in the provision of further infrastructure to make the streets more pedestrian and tourist friendly.

It is hoped that the combination of private and public sector investment will also lead to further business spin-offs and kick start major projects such as the revival of the Iveagh Markets in Francis Street which was shelved in the downturn.

Those projects in the pipeline are also expected to generate demand for more apartments from the staff and students who will be working and studying in them and also boost retail activity in a formerly very lively retailing area.

Consequently the forthcoming sale of the IAWS offices and adjoining half- acre site on Thomas Street will be a sure test of the Liberties property market and how investors and developers view prospects for the area. Agents Hooke and MacDonald are quoting €3.5m for the property.

The largest of the projects planned for the Liberties is the new National Children's Hospital which will be built on the St James' Hospital site involving a €650m investment. Bruce Phillips, senior DCC executive officer for the area which is part of South West Inner City, is hopeful that the new hospital will generate further medical-related employers locating to an area which has suffered from falling employment and business closures for most of the second half of the twentieth Century.

Part of the reason for the decline was the modernisation of the Guinness brewery during that period which resulted in fewer employed in the brewery and saw many of those retained employees setting up homes in the suburbs.

However, Guinness has also played a key part in the revival of the area in a number of ways. Its parent company Diageo is currently completing a €150m investment in the modernisation of the brewery an investment which reversed a previous decision to move the brewery to Leixlip. Diageo also intends to move more of its activities to the section of its properties between James Street and the River Liffey thus freeing up extensive lands on the southern side of the street for the creation of a new urban quarter.

Already some of its land has been devoted to the Guinness Enterprise Centre which is home to over 80 companies employing 320 people. Even more importantly Diageo has recently invested €10m in the Guinness Storehouse to enhance one of Ireland's leading tourist sites, attracting 1.2 million tourists a year.

This is also creating spin-offs. Three drinks manufacturing businesses involving a combined investment of €25m are being established to cash in on the tourist fascination with Irish drink and the desire to visit Irish drink manufacturers. These projects include the Teeling family's €10m whiskey distillery in Newmarket Square which will be the first new distillery in Dublin for more than 125 years and fills a gap left by the transfer of the Jameson and Powers distilling operations from the Liberties to Midleton, Co Cork.

Teeling plans to create 50 construction jobs and at least 30 full-time posts. But the business will not rely solely on whiskey sales as it will also aim to attract 50,000 visitors next year.

Meanwhile, nearby on Mill Street, a second distillery with a similar level of investment is planned by the Dublin Whiskey Company owned by Marie Byrne and Ed O'Flaherty.

In addition, Alltech, a US brewing, distilling and animal nutrition firm, headed by Irish couple Pearse and Deirdre Lyons, plan to invest around €5m in the creation of another drinks manufacturing and visitor centre in a former church on the north side of James Street. Alltech paid about €690,000 for the church and site. Pot stills will be located in nave of the church, new stained glass windows will be installed and it will also accommodate a visitor's centre and museum. A key factor in Lyons' decision to locate in the church was its location on "the Dubline," a new history trail linking Trinity College, Temple Bar, Christ Church and the Guinness Storehouse to the Royal Hospital and Kilmainham Jail.

Encouraging these developments, DCC is investing €800,000 in phase one of its plans to enhance the the Dubline route. This will include the creation of green walls on buildings with decayed fronts or derelict sites as well as upgrading foot paths, tree planting and making it much easier to walk from Christ Church to High Street and Cornmarket. It also plans to attract more national cultural and fun events to the area.

The Digital Hub is also playing a key role in generating business activity in the area with its campus hosting 72 technology and digital media companies which employ more than 900 people. It is also providing part of its campus to Knightsbridge Student Housing Ltd, a European associate of US investment firm Oaktree, on which a new student hostel will be developed and it also provides further accommodation for Digital Hub activities.

The student presence is also growing in the area. As well as the National College of Art and Design, and entertainment venues such as Vicar Street, the area also hosts BIMM, the Brighton Institute of Modern Music, which recently took a second building in the Liberties and now has classrooms in the Coombe as well as in Francis Street providing courses up to graduate level for students interested in careers in the music industry.

DCC is also working with local businesses to promote a range of activities and attract new business to the area.

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