From the early days of the Viking settlements, through the golden age of Georgian architecture, to today: Dublin’s urban landscape is the culmination of an array of architectural, socio-economic and political influences and events that have led to the diverse and unique city we know and love today.
Few factors have been as significant in shaping the city’s evolution as, one of its primary natural assets, the River Liffey. The Liffey, historically the spine of the city in providing transport, trade and sanitation services, has been a key influence in determining patterns of capital investment across the city, the legacy of which remain evident across the cityscape today.
In parallel, the river has acted as a formidable natural constraint, resulting, over time, in a divergence in economic fortunes, north and south. While historically not always the case, it is the south side of the city today that attracts the lion’s share of capital investment.
While this is far from unique, indeed many of Europe’s great cities such as London (Thames), Paris (Seine), Istanbul (Bosphorus) and Budapest (Danube) are divided by major waterways, Dublin is somewhat unusual in that it features a particularly high degree of divergence and driven by relatively poor cross-river connectivity that has resulted, in effect, in two co-existing city centres.
Critical to correcting these long-standing imbalances, north and south, will be sustained public transport infrastructure to stimulate investment, drive urban cohesion and deliver on a sustainable future. Already, public infrastructure investments, including the Seán O’Casey (2005), Samuel Beckett (2009) and Rosie Hackett (2014) bridges, have had a positive impact.
Since commencing in December 2017, Luas Cross City has had a further positive impact in the consolidation of the urban core by sustainable means, contributing to a more favorable economic and social investment horizon for Dublin 1 in particular. While Luas Cross City has been a welcome addition, it is widely agreed that further capital investment in sustainable public transport infrastructure is needed.
Longer term projects such as Metrolink, a high frequency rail link from the City Centre to Dublin Airport and onwards to Swords, will provide further improvements to north/south connectivity while delivering on sustainable alternatives to car use. As the first city centre station for southbound trains, O’Connell Street Metrolink station should be a major catalyst for growth in the locality.
Managing this growth sustainably, while ensuring our heritage assets are protected and, at the same time, ensuring local communities reap the benefits, will be a key yardstick to the regeneration of a historic part of our nation’s capital.
Image right, ‘Hammerson’s vision for Dublin Central’, supplied by Hammerson.