At the corner of Dolphins Barn/South Circular Road, 33-37 Dolphins Barn beside the Spar, a site has lay derelict for more than 15 years. Plans are now underway to provide up to 20 public homes at this site and my attention is now fixed on what we’re going to do with the ground-floor space of that development.
At the moment, the Dolphins Barn/SCR junction is just that, a junction. People come here to visit the Spar or the Tesco or they might even go to Ziggy’s but in general, people don’t spend time in what should be Dolphins Barn village, they just pass through it.
I am firmly of the view that delivering a community or social enterprise use, rather than a commercial unit, at this ground-floor space could enhance Dolphins Barn village and make people want to spend time here.
This site is back in Dublin City Council ownership after being sold off to a private developer in 2015. It was sold off in 2015 on the basis that the developer would begin construction at the site within four months of being granted planning permission. Permission was sought and granted for 12 apartments and two ground-floor commercial units. By 2020, following legal wrangling, the land was back in Dublin City Council ownership.
What next for the site?
With more than 14,600 people on Dublin City Council’s housing waiting list, the delivery of public housing on this site is very welcome. Myself and other Councillors representing the South West Inner City have met with senior with Housing officials in Dublin City Council and we’re all on the same page that we want housing delivered on this derelict eye-sore as soon as possible.
Already there have been expressions of interest from Approved Housing Bodies (AHBs), which are independent, not-for-profit organisations, to deliver housing on behalf of the Council at this site.
Sick of the empty commercial units under apartment blocks in the area, I launched a survey of local residents looking for community feedback on what uses people would be interested in for this ground-floor location.
Only 1 in 4 respondents wanted the ground-floor of this development to be for solely commercial use, with 75% of respondents saying that they wanted a community service, social enterprise or mixed use at this site.
Over 92% of respondents to the survey agreed or strongly agreed that there were too many empty/vacant commercial ground-floor units in the Cork Street/Dolphins Barn Street and Fatima area.
Some of the ideas for community uses and social enterprises included: a community arts space, childcare facility, youth centre, public swimming pool, library, artists studios and many more.
On the back of this survey, I put down a motion at the Dublin South Central Area Committee calling on Dublin City Council to exhaust all options to provide a community or social use at this ground-floor location, which was unanimously supported by all Councillors.
A key hurdle to overcome will be the funding of such a ground-floor community space. Time and time again we are reminded that Dublin City Council’s housing budget can only be spent on housing and not community infrastructure. This means that we are left scrambling to fund basic community services. This is a national issue the Government has yet to get to grips with. Without funding for community resources to go along with our much-needed public housing projects, we are setting ourselves up to repeat past failures.
While I am hopeful that funding can be sourced to deliver a community space at this location, I received the following noncommittal response to my motion:
The City Council is currently reviewing the options for the development of this site at Dolphins Barn/South Circular Road. The inclusion of a community element on the ground floor of the scheme will be considered when determining the appropriate option for the site.