There were wry smiles and gnashing of teeth round Dun Laoghaire way when the Lexicon library won best culture and public building at the RIAI Irish Architecture Awards in June.
One peeved commentator even described it as "Our very own Titanic." But something as big and bold as this 38-metre high, four-storey €36 million baby was bound to have them spluttering into their G&Ts at the Royal St George Yacht Club and with the calibre of criticism historically reserved for the likes of the Eiffel Tower and our very own Custom House, which famously caused riots.
But the Lexicon's reading rooms, children's library, 100-seater performance space, municipal gallery and cafe have been almost universally lauded.
A town that has been around as long as this historic port 12km south of Dublin city, will always have had to embrace many changes. Named after the 5th century Dun (fort) built here for the high king Laoire, the town is known today for its Victorian seafront and period homes. But it is also a mèlange of the old and new - and the elegant and the dilapidated.
The seafront includes a scattering of colonial era monuments at odds with its crumbling main street, George's St which was named after the rotund king who visited in the 1820s and caused the town's name to change for 100 years to Kingstown.
Walk from the main gate of the Victorian gem that is the People's Park, at the eastern end, back down to York Road, at the other end of the town, and you will encounter many abandoned premises. Parking fees and scarcity of spaces have long been a bugbear of local traders who claim to have been hit hard by the arrival of the Dundrum shopping centre.
This and the closing of the Stena Line ferry service to Wales have hurt, but Dún Laoghaire Rathdown Council has been investing heavily in major capital projects, including the library, improvements to the People's Park and streetscape improvements. The Business Improvement District Task Force has also been working to bring new businesses to the town centre.
Future plans for the old Dun Laoghaire Baths site near the iconic East Pier will also come before the council this year, and the long mooted "Urban Beach", at the East Pier, and floating river barge with heated, treated seawater, also await the green light.
The promotion of the port as a destination for cruise liners is also being eagerly pursued.
Dun Laoghaire is the county's administrative centre, with its own theatre (the Pavilion), 12-screen cinema complex, maritime museum, two shopping centres (the functional Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre, on Marine Road, and Bloomfield, on Convent Lane) and an excellent public transport system (DART stops at either end of the town and frequent buses.
It's also an important yachting location with four clubs and is well served by hotels (like the splendid and iconic Royal Marine), pubs and restaurants.
The area to the north of the West Pier at Salthill Beach also sees much windsurfing activity and fishing has always been popular.
The five gold anchor-rated harbour (over 500 berths) is today a bustling gateway for yachts and pleasure boats.
The People's Park comes alive every Sunday as market vendors offer Japanese, Croation, Lebanese, Italian, French, Chinese, Indian, Greek, Pakistani, Polish, Palestinian and Czech food produce, not to mention Irish jewellery, crafts, books and original art.
Another great addition to the park is the arrival of a branch of the Fallon and Byrne restaurant and food hall to its historic pavilion building. Other well-known restaurants are Hartleys and Toscana.
The new Pavilion Theatre stands on the site of the old which offered generations of locals everything from ballet to firework displays.
The East Pier is famous as a walking location. Turn left as you leave Dun Laoghaire DART station, and amble down the pier (stopping off for an ice-cream at the popular Teddy's). There are lots of lovely details to enjoy, such as an old weather station, and a old wrought-iron Victorian bandstand.
Near the Martello tower mentioned in Ulysses is the famous 40-Foot open-sea bathing area enjoyed by Dubliners for more than 250 years The name actually comes from a regiment or military company previously based there: "the 40th regiment of Foot".
Dun Laoghaire DART station or any of the buses serving Dun Laoghaire (7, 7a, 8, 45a, 46a, 59, 75, and 111). Sandycove and Glasthule and Salthill and Monkstown DART stations also serve the area.
The main Primary School in Dún Laoghaire is the Dominican Convent (mixed) on Convent Road. Holy Family National School is located in Monkstown Farm, and Monkstown Educate Together National School is on Kill Avenue in Dun Laoghaire. There is also St Joseph's National School on Tivoli Road (mixed)
Dún Laoghaire has seen several of its secondary schools close in the past two decades, due to population shifts to outlying areas, although the fee paying CBC Monkstown, which relocated from Eblana, continues. There is also the Presentation Brothers on Glasthule Road. Dún Laoghaire Further Education Institute offers extensive recognised FETAC qualification courses at 17 Cumberland Street. The Dun Laoghaire School of Music is at 130A Lower Georges Street
As regards pubs, the Purty Kitchen, around since 1728, is still good enough to be voted Dublin's best gastropub 2013-2014, by the Restaurant Association of Ireland. Gilbert and Wright, on Georges Street, is also popular, as is Dunphys, on Lower Georges Street, with its traditional Victorian style still mercifully intact. McLoughlin's on Upper Georges Street, has a great trad night on Thursday.
Michelle Kealy of Lisney says: "We have to be realistic with our asking prices. Values have fallen by about 10% on last year, although we are back up maybe 5% in the last few weeks."
At the higher end of the market, it is quite common to fetch over the €1million for period properties on Royal Terrace, Carlisle Terrace or Northumberland Avenue. and Clarinda Park East and West. The average here is in the high €800,000s, and also in nearby Crossthwaithe Park.
At the middle end, 81 Patrick Street, a three-bed cottage, achieved its €545,000 asking price. According to Rowena Quinn of Hunters, three-bed properties on Monkstown Road, Lower Corrig Road and Tivoli Road a four-bed semi with room for extension would fetch up to €850,000.
At the lower end, a three-bed 818 sq ft mid-terrace property on Pottery Road, went for €365,000 recently.
On Thomastown Road, behind Killiney Shopping Centre, a four-bed semi would go for around €475,000 while Quillsen is seeking €525,000 for a three-bedroom semi at 76 Highthorn Park.
DNG Dun Laoghaire wants €750,000 for the five-bedroomed detached 30 Sefton, Rochestown Avenue; and Lisney has 6 bedrooms, 283 sq m 32 Northumberland Avenue on offer for €885,000
Next Week: Let's Move To Wicklow Town
DUN LAOGHAIRE AREA CV
Transport links to Dublin City
Iconic east pier walk
Elegant Victorian terraces
Parking tends to be quite costly and limited
Closed-up businesses on main thoroughfare with some tatty sites
Planned cuts and changes to bus routes will put greater stress on the rail links
- For Sale -
- For Sale -
- For Sale -