Dún Laoghaire residents and visitors are being entertained with the construction of an eight storey library for which a trifle sum of 35 million to God-knows-what upper limit of the spend band.
This is a tangible representation of how territory management can go spectacularly wrong. How can this be, after all the mistakes and (Ash Wednesday) we have witnessed in this country ?
It all starts with the “mother of all money gathering”: tax collection. This micronized, ubiquitous, relentless machine that govern-ments have put in place to collect taxes. It starts with the 23% vat that you pay on your kids rucksacks. And the extra you pay on the fuel. Your income tax, your stamp duty, your tv licence, which by the way is amongst the highest in the EU.
This massive, billowing volume of public money is collected “for the common good”. For our government to look after and supply public services such as schools, the cleaning of streets, transport, hospital and medical care. All services which disappointingly, we are then asked to pay twice for; health insurance, tolls, schools. Maybe the tax collection of n38 bn is not sufficient for 4 million citizens.
The “moral imperative”, with public money, is that it should be administered with extra care. It is the sum of millions of peoples savings, work and toil. It is a precious reserve that should be used to steer and protect the well being of the economy, spread the wealth.
Regarding public works, public money should ensure a legacy of beauty and functionality to the area.
That this Library came into being beggars belief.
That such a design could be conceived of in the first instance for a Victorian prome-nade begs the specific question of architectural concurrence, is dismaying.
The design, an eight storey 'wall' is clearly out of scale in its dimension and towers all and everything around it, similar to the
‘Tower of Gandor’ from the famous Lord of the Rings book. Scotsman bay view is gone from the centre and Pavilion perspective. The centre view is gone from the Sandycove perspective. Suddenly irrelevant - the surrounding beautiful features of The Royal Marine Hotel, The Yacht Clubs, the Town Hall, The Maritime Museum, and the Victorian terraced houses henceforth stand dwarfed, bullied, and denegraded.
The library breaks into the promenade almost like an alien wedge, literally (and physically) invading your personal space into a semicircle to put some distance between you and it. It feels as if it may bite one on the back as one approaches.
One side tiled in white, the other side inexplicably covered in red brick (?). Perhaps the intention at the outset was to reduce the soviet look to the shopping centre.
The scale of the investment is significant. By comparison, ?35 million (of private money) is the sum invested in the Guinness Storehouse, which attracts 1 million fee paying visitors annually, generating adequate revenues. Public money sets out to generate an economic multiplier effect, so for every cent spent we should expect a return of approximately 5-7 times the original investment.
In what way will this library then provide this return for us?
Managing territories is a wonderful, exciting privilege. One that should be approached with humility and determination in order that a positive mark is left and one that should bring our community along to a stage of greater health and wealth. These are expressed in public amenities, flourishing business, services and enriching experiences for all.
Dùn Laogaire has the potential to be a first class tourist destination. The harbour is a huge asset but we need to have a central attraction for these visitors.
Ah, yes, the main street. This is the heart of every community, every village, town and city. From New York to Glasthule, the main street is where we instinctively converge. Anthropological mysteries of a gregarious species, as we are.
Neglecting your heart leads to cardiac arrest. And it doesn’t matter if you have your nails well manicured and lacquered once you get a heart attack.
The policy of inviting more shopping centres outside the centre is foolish and masochistic in the long run, we must denounce the unjustifiable hunger for short term revenue. Intense parking patrols which exist here advertise to our visitors a clear signal ... We do not want you here! It also sends the message to our visitors that not alone do we not want you parking here but contrast this with the spotlessly clean parking amenities Dundrum Town Centre provides.
The retail sector has already lost in the last 5 years here in Ireland, 70,000 jobs. These losses translate mostly to the social welfare bill.
‘Tower of Gondor’ comes to town
So what will this short sighted approach achieve for us? What other destination could you plan for a town centre?
Retailers are well into an era where online sales constantly erode their brick and mortar presence whilst large retail players challenge the smaller ones.
And yet it is only through rejuvenating a town centre with well designed, purposeful, specialised, experiential retails that a town can live.
A town for everyone to enjoy, with a Teddy’s ice cream in your hand, if you so prefer.
Dùn Laoghaire; a fabulous Victorian spot with a magnificent harbour, three yacht clubs, the James Joyce Martello tower... yet unable to muster up the confidence to sell itself as a world class port town with a maritime centre of excellence.
The County Council have worked tirelessly to improve the sea front; the promenade, the Peoples Park and all the seafront can offer. The people’s organic market has developed over the years and possibly now competes as being the best one in Dublin. The cov-ering of the dart tracks has provided us with ample walking space and the play park at the sea front is an excellent example of how an appropriately located and designed space can amount to a huge asset. The surprise is not that the County Council might provide such excellent amenities for our town ... moreso that they could spend n35 million to destroy it all!
A Petition For Demolition
It's never too late to recognise mistakes. Oh how refreshing and appreciated this would be!
Up to now it's probable that the county council have spent n10 million constructing the library to the stage it currently stands. Demolition would cost n2 million. This would leave us with a net reserve fund of approxi-mately n20 million. With these huge savings ... town revival instantly springs to mind ... the Main Street.... a new strategy ... a new mission ... positive action.