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Jewel in Arnott's crown now just a street with no heart

It should have been the jewel in Dublin City's development crown -- but Middle Abbey Street has become a street without a heart.

The street, which was to be the face of Arnotts' ambitious €750m investment for a prime retail location has instead become a thoroughfare marked by dated facades and empty buildings.

Plans for a thriving metropolitan centre, to be known as the Northern Quarter, have long since been abandoned as the department store struggles to deal with its choking €260m debt.

Dynamic

The Northern Quarter was to rival the Dundrum Shopping Centre with shops, hotels, entertainment and living accommodation.

Dublin Chambers of Commerce saw it as the lynchpin for their vision of Dublin in 2020 as a clean, safe, dynamic European city with world class tourism and transport and a high quality of life.

Now in Middle Abbey Street, the former headquarters of Independent Newspapers lies empty after the building was sold off for €26m. The Royal Hibernian Academy and the Adelphi Cinema where the Beatles played two concerts in 1963, have disappeared.

Prince's Chinese restaurant which thrived for decades lies vacant on what was to have become one of the city's principle shopping streets.

Originally the Northern Quarter was due for completion in 2011. The plan was to develop the 5.5 acre site as a premier shopping district with 47 shops, 14 cafes, restaurants and bars, 175 apartments and a 149-bed four-star hotel.

It would have built around a new public square designed to keep the area alive late into the night and early morning.

Today the plan is in tatters. Far from looking forward to a vibrant, growing quarter the almost 1,000 staff employed by Arnotts are worried about the security of their jobs.

The biggest shopping attraction on the street is Arnotts bargain basement. There's also the side entrances to Penneys and Easons.

Middle Abbey Streets takes its name from the medieval St Mary's Abbey founded in 1139 and a lot of the street had to be reconstructed when buildings were destroyed during the 1916 Rising.

Fire

Arnotts opened just ahead of the bleakest period in Irish history.

A fire destroyed the shop and most of its stock in 1984 and it came close to being levelled again during the Easter Rising.

It played its own part in the 1916 rebellion when Countess Markievicz is said to have kitted out some of her Citizen's Army in the uniform section of the store.

Arnotts overcame all difficulties to become the department store which attracted shoppers from all over the country .

csheehy@herald.ie


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