Thursday 23 May 2019

The urban cool of Grand Canal where you network - and play

The tech hub's cosmopolitan vibe and burgeoning party scene make it a magnet for bright young things, writes Donal Lynch

Aislinn Mahon and Lory Kehoe in the sunshine at Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Aislinn Mahon and Lory Kehoe in the sunshine at Grand Canal Dock. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

It's the hottest day of the year and, despite the number of parks and green spaces in Dublin, the epicentre of the city's summer cool now appears to be Grand Canal Dock. This is the fault line of old and new Dublin - most graphically evidenced by the redevelopment of Boland's Mill - a slickly designed modern interior belying its historic facade.

Handsome office workers bask in the afternoon heat and look on bemused as local kids go diving in the murky water. It's not only the weather that seems scarcely Irish. A cacophony of different languages is spoken on the terraces leading down to the famous Windmill Lane studios and the atmosphere is light years from the stuffy sterility of the IFSC.

This is where they serve the best coffee (il Valentino, where there is a morning queue for bread) and the best tapas (HQ, on the water) in the city. For about a quarter of a mile in any direction there appears to be hardly anyone under the age of 40. In this, Dublin's tech hub, the workers are mostly young, highly skilled and super-confident.

Lory Kehoe and Aislinn Mahon are two of the brightest young tech stars in the neighbourhood - Lory runs an innovative block chain company called ConsenSys; Aislinn, a veteran of the Web Summit, heads up Huckletree, a slickly marketed desk-sharing company, which hosts a slew of creatives, entrepreneurs and tech professionals at Twitter's old HQ on Pearse Street. They say that the secret to the area's mix of affluence and urban cool is a working culture where the line between work and play is so blurred as to be meaningless.

"We have a roof terrace and we host drinks every week," Aislinn explains. "But successful entrepreneurs don't rock up anywhere with hangovers, they know when to stop. There is no work and play. Work and pleasure are intermingled. You're always networking, the 9-5 just doesn't exist around here."

The relative youth of the hordes of young professionals that live around here has given rise to something of a party scene - several of the penthouse apartments in the area regularly host epic blowouts - and the roof of The Marker Hotel also provides a luxurious vantage point to scope out the wakeboarding on the water which is also hugely popular among the well-heeled clientele of the area.

Slattery's, in Beggar's Bush, and The Bath, on Bath Avenue, are also particularly popular.

Lory says that all this recreation is anything but a distraction. "I was at a conference in New York recently, where there were DJs and bands and a guy playing a didgeridoo. The core theme of the whole thing was what technology can do, but the ethos of the event was very much how do we connect, how do we chill out, and have a good time while we're understanding these big ideas."

Of the gargantuan rents in Grand Canal - roughly €2,000 a month for a one-bedroom flat near the water - Lory says: "People need to get realistic. If you were living in London, or New York, you probably wouldn't be able to afford a one-bed on your own so it's to be expected that it's going the same way here.

"There is a really positive mood in the city. Having gone through the recession and the cloud that hung over Dublin, it just feels amazing. A lot of my friends who went away have come back home. It's once again the place to be."

Sunday Independent

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