Friday 29 August 2008

Plaza plan for 'drugs market' Custom Quay area

Environment Minister John Gormley has urged the Dublin Docklands Development Authority to bring forward plans to regenerate the area around the Custom House, admitting yesterday it was home to a "virtual drugs market".

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Gormley said he could not disagree with the area being described as "tatty" or a "virtual drugs market", saying the river frontage of the Custom House building was frequented by drug addicts.

"It's a wonderful building and should be one of Ireland's iconic buildings," he said.

"I would like to see the Docklands plans happening as soon as possible. I can't disagree that the front of the building is a gathering point for people with drug problems.

"The part that's the problem is the front, it's a dead part of the street with no access coming in.

"It's time to see the Docklands plans brought forward," he added.

The Dublin Docklands Development Authority plans to develop a public plaza at the front of the building.

This is currently being designed, but anything happening with the Custom House would be a matter for Dublin City Council and the OPW.

The long-term aspiration is to ban all vehicular traffic from the front of the building, and the ground floor of the Custom House could be turned into cafes, bars and restaurants.

The Docklands masterplan aims to create the pedestrian-only area to "break down barriers to movement" between the quays and the city centre.

"There are proposals to eliminate vehicular traffic in front of the Custom House, and to create a citywide destination point on the Liffey and restore the Custom House to the setting it deserves," the draft masterplan says.

"This space would further be connected to the River Liffey boardwalk implemented along Ormond Quay and Bachelor's Walk and create a recreational horizontal plain running from the edge of the building to the River Liffey."


Plans to develop a drop-in centre for drug addicts nearby could also result in fewer addicts loitering around the building.

The Custom House is regarded as a masterpiece of European neo-classicism, and was completed in 1791 after a ten-year building programme.

Designed by James Gandon -- who also designed the Four Courts and the King's Inn -- it was burnt to the ground in May 1921 during the War of Independence but restored by 1928.

Another restoration project was completed in 1991.

Paul Melia
Irish Independent

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