A €2.6 million redesign of Portobello Plaza at the Grand Canal in Dublin, which became a focus of anti-social behaviour during the Covid-19 pandemic, is to be undertaken by Dublin City Council.
A pedestrianisation scheme will see a doubling of the plaza space which runs from the Lower Deck pub to the canal bank, with new planting and paving. Councillors were told on Monday, however, that the planning of the scheme could take 18 months, or longer, before construction begins.
There were chaotic scenes in the area in the summer of 2021 when large crowds gathered in the space in front of the canal to drink when pubs were closed during pandemic-related restrictions. Residents reported constant noise, particularly at weekends, during the day and late into the night. Huge volumes of litter were left behind by those who gathered. The council eventually closed off the square at weekends using large metal barriers to secure the space.
Over the past year, the area has again been cordoned off to facilitate a construction compound for a hotel to the west of the plaza, which is expected to be completed next year.
The new plaza would involve the pedestrianisation of Richmond Row from the canal bridge at Rathmines Road to Portobello Harbour, the road which runs in front of the Lower Deck pub.
Landscape architect with the council, Eddie O’Gara, said initial public consultation had indicated support for the redevelopment and extension of the plaza, but there were issues of conflict surrounding its future use, particularly in relation to potential skateboarding.
“There is a desire by skateboarding community to still have a location while the majority of local residents do not wish to have skateboarding near their homes,” Mr O’Gara said.
[ What fresh vision of hell is this so-called ‘Portobello Plaza'? ]
The skateboarding community were keen on “informal skate play” which could be facilitated through “incidental skateboarding provision, further away from the residential conflict points”, Mr O’Gara said. This may be resolved by the extension of the plaza towards the Rathmines Road. “This plan provides more space to accommodate more activities and reduces the conflict points between residents and skateboarding.”
Fine Gael councillor Danny Byrne said residents were “really disappointed” by the amount of concrete and “hard landscaping” in the proposed new design.
Anne Feeney, also of Fine Gael, said it was important that “congregation” was properly facilitated in the new plaza. “There is nothing wrong with hanging out, if hanging out is done in a positive way.”
Mr O’Gara said the designs were still at an early stage.
“A non-statutory public consultation of this plan is proposed for early 2023.” The formal planning process would begin in the first three months of next year, he said. “The timeline for this process is 18 months, but can take longer depending on issues.”