TRAFFIC is to be completely banned from the Grafton Street corner of Dublin’s St Stephen’s Green when a public plaza is created as part of works for the Metro North light-rail system.
The Railway Procurement Agency is currently in discussions with Dublin City Council about creating the plaza at the top of the city’s premier shopping street, which could see the whole area transformed into a pedestrian-only area.
And yesterday it emerged the Fusilier's Arch at the entrance to St Stephen’s Green will have be removed for four years during construction works.
The statue of Daniel O’Connell on the capital’s main thoroughfare will also be temporarily removed during the construction of underground stations.
No decision has been made as to where to relocate the iconic statue during the four years of building work, but it is planned to re-instate it once the stations are completed.
And it has emerged that more than 40 mature trees will have to be removed from St Stephen’s Green to accommodate an underground station, work on which is expected to start next year.
The RPA’s chief architect, Jim Quinlan, last night outlined the vision for St Stephen's Green and the city centre after works are complete and Metro North is up and running.
“We want to try and declutter that area and create a public plaza,” he told the Irish Independent.
“It’s already a great place for people to meet and we’re going to remove traffic and create a much more pedestrian zone with more, and better, street furniture.
“We’ll move the bike stands to create space, and we’ll have to figure out where to put the horse and carts, taxis and bikes.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity and it could be extended to College Green and Westmoreland Street because we’re digging that up as well. It’s a great opportunity to create a pedestrian spine through the heart of the city.”
But parts of St Stephen’s Green will be changed forever, with up to 45 mature trees removed to facilitate construction of the underground station. Three small ‘boxes' or escape hatches will also be built within the park walls, while air vents will be located on the island in the middle of the lake.
However a 'living wall' will be created, which will see plants and shrubbery shielding the vents from park users over time. “St Stephen’s Green can’t go back exactly as it was, there will be some vents on the island, but they’ll be disguised,” he said.
“A lot of the trees in place need a lot of root space, and we’re working with the Office of Public Works to see what species can go back in. We think 44 or 45 mature trees will have to be removed.”
Mr Quinlan, who is leaving the RPA later this week to take up a new position as chief architect with the Dubai light rail project, also said he expected the project to be delivered by its 2014 deadline.
But he admitted the construction works would be painful, and that “hundreds of acres” of land would be needed for the project. “There’s radar mapping now which tells us exactly what’s underground,” he said. “We’ll need quite a lot of land, but we’ve tried to ensure we’re under public roads and land. Traffic management will have an impact on the city, and it (disruption) will be more than Luas.
“St Stephen’s Green, O’Connell Street, Parnell Square, the Mater and Drumcondra all present big problems. Abbey Street to the Quays will have to be dug up, and some side streets will be closed off in Drumcondra. The 2014 deadline is a big call, it’s very complex but we’re taking an optimistic view. Some things are out of our hands, and planning could take longer (than expected).” Construction works will start at a number of locations across the city, assuming An Bord Pleanala approve the project, he added.