New Proposals for the Grafton Street Quarter

Public realm improvements in the Grafton Street Quarter are set to continue in 2015 with new plans prepared by City Architects.  The latest stage in the wider strategy for the quarter consists of work to the area between Chatham St and the Eastern stretch of Wicklow Street.  It will also include Chatham Lane, Balfe Street, Harry Street, and Johnson Court.  It envisages a quieter set of streets compared to the bustle of Grafton Street and will include new paving, street furniture, and tree planting in the area.

The Grafton Street Quarter extends from South Great Georges Street to Dawson Street, bounded at either end by two of the City’s major public spaces; St Stephen’s Green and College Green.  With its vibrant mix of activities, the area has been described as the social, cultural, and economic heart of the city.  It is covered by the Grafton Street Environs Architectural Conservation Area and Area of Special Planning Control and the South City Retail Architectural Conservation Area.

The nature of its public space is guided by the Grafton Street Quarter Public Realm Plan, which was published in May 2014.  Following an extensive process of public consultation, it called for a number of improvements to be implemented in a series of rolling projects.  Among the issues raised were excessive visual clutter, the deteriorating quality of footpaths and paving, as well as the need for traffic calming and places for rest.  It also noted the distinct character of the individual streets within the quarter, something to be celebrated with subsequent projects.  In 2012 two Pilot schemes were launched in Fade Street and Clarendon Row respectively.  The more substantial work at Grafton Street itself kicked off last year with a completion date set for this November.

Public Realm Projects in The Grafton Street Quarter, (clockwise from left) Clarendon Street, Fade Street, Grafton Street

The latest stage of the works is essentially an extension of the Grafton Street scheme where, in contrast to the busy shopping thoroughfare, these side streets will offer more relaxed and restful spaces. The design will create a unified, single surface, pedestrian environment in Chatham Street extending into Balfe Street, Harry Street and Chatham Lane. The principles of Universal Design will be applied throughout in order to create a streetscape that is legible and accessible to all.

Chatham Street West Proposal

As in Grafton Street, it is proposed to differentiate between the carriageway and the adjoining footpath areas using two separate granites; Iberian blue silver-grey and Leinster brown grey.  This visually delineates areas with vehicle access from traffic free pedestrian footways and expresses the threshold between building and street. Although most of the antique paving kerbs were removed from the area in the 1980s, those remaining have been incorporated into the new design.  The current paving stones will be retained for future use, where feasible.  Along with the restrained pallet of materials chosen, visual clutter will be further reduced through the use of wall mounted street lighting.

Harry Street Proposal

Street furniture has been incorporated into the greening strategy for the area.  This strategy will see the introduction of semi mature specimen trees and floral planters.  Seats and spaces for rest are proposed underneath the trees at both ends of Chatham Street and Harry Street.  At Wicklow Street the edge of the proposed planting containers will be designed to provide casual opportunity to linger.  The planting has been planned to contribute to the overall character of the area, providing focal points and landmarks appropriate to each particular space.  The proposals will not impact the current trading positions for flower sellers and other street traders in the area.

Chatham Street East Proposal

Senior executive architect with City Architects, Kilian Skay, explained the motivations behind the design

“In Grafton Street we were not able to accommodate street furniture or trees because of the number of people on the street and the services below.  So we decided to look at the side streets. Chatham Street will have trees planted at both ends, with seating under the trees and we will also have floral displays on Wicklow Street and to the front of the Westbury Hotel.

By removing the kerbs, the entire street will be level which will create far more accessible and pedestrian-friendly spaces.  The whole street surface will be a lot simpler and won’t be competing with the buildings.  The thinking is to expand the high-quality pedestrian environment of Grafton Street into the side streets, and, by using the principles of universal design, to make the streets more accessible for all.”

The period for observations on the proposals ends on 11 September 2014