Tuesday 19 July 2011

Temple Bar as place and concept is real success story

TEMPLE BAR in Dublin is 20 years old, based on the passing of the Temple Bar Renewal and Development Act 1991 that got the ball rolling.

The inner south city centre area’s regeneration began when Ireland was in the economic doldrums. Dublin’s designation as European Capital of Culture in 1991 provided the catalyst just as urban regeneration in Glasgow, Bilbao and elsewhere is linked to cultural and artistic ventures.

Temple Bar is a success story, in an Irish and European context, for which successive national and local governments deserve real credit. It is many things to many people: a place and a brand, a cultural quarter, a workplace, a tourism destination and, importantly, somewhere called home.

It can also be used as a metaphor for the positive side of Ireland – its creative people and culture. Similarly, it is a byword for some of the country’s image problems: difficulty in dealing with success, alcohol dependence, failing to resolve problems and lax enforcement.

It is fair to say that many things never happened according to the original plans. However, we should acclaim the many great things in the area today that were never imagined in those plans.

Our company and its predecessor led development here until 2001 through innovative urban renewal, local governance, building design, and arts and cultural development and presentation.

Bringing culture closer to people in Temple Bar has been our focus since 2006. Managing a property portfolio allows us operational independence to organise and support hundreds of events and provide about €1.7 million in subsidises annually to cultural organisations. The exchequer receives €450,000 of our €2 million turnover.

The most recent economic impact assessment, an Amárach Consulting report in 2009, said Temple Bar generates over €680 million annually. If Temple Bar was listed in this year’s Irish Times Top 1,000 Companies List, this figure would rank us 68th. Dairygold, for example, was 66th.

The area is an established, significant residential community of more than 2,500 people. It is also a high-profile tourism destination attracting about 3.5 million visits a year.

Above all, Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter, home and workplace to hundreds of artists and a myriad of cultural micro-enterprises, nationally important cultural institutions, creative workspaces and countless public opportunities to encounter culture and the arts.

The many stakeholders include our shareholder Dublin City Council, An Garda Síochána, residents, local businesses, tourism promotion bodies and the vintners-led Temple Bar Traders Association.

How this group manages the area still requires much more collaborative work and improvement.

Frank McDonald’s article in The Irish Times Magazine on July 2nd portrays a negative and dated perspective on Temple Bar. However, it does outline the complex, sometimes conflicting yet always-interdependent relationships that foster Temple Bar’s development. He usefully illustrates how poor enforcement in planning, noise pollution, public order, litter management and liquor licensing have created unacceptable conditions for some residents, issues that are problems for Ireland and not just Temple Bar.

We established the Temple Bar Forum, a mechanism for resolving local problems locally, now managed by Dublin City Council, following the publication of our 2004 Urban Framework Plan. Facilitating solutions using face-to-face contact proved to be an important platform for many stakeholders.

However, unlike Temple Bar’s physical regeneration phase, managing the area is a much more complex and dynamic process where public and private interests and responsibilities must be balanced.

Temple Bar Cultural Trust takes its responsibilities seriously. We have a zero tolerance policy to graffiti, have attended the licensing courts to support residents objecting to a liquor licence renewal and contributed to public policy development and consultation.

The trust operates some of Europe’s most imaginative programmes covering the entire age and interest range from the retired to children, families and niche groups.

We continue to invest in the area and will reopen Meeting House Square and its unique Irish-designed retractable rainscreen later this year. A new Temple Bar Square framework plan will form part of a wider plan for improving people’s experience of the area.

The trust is also formulating a major public domain project to increase accessibility throughout Temple Bar with a target completion date of 2016, our 25th birthday.

Temple Bar is vibrant, dynamic, imaginative and different. It has never stood still and its strong dynamic continues to evolve.

Dermot McLaughlin is chief executive of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Irish Times


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