Business groups are warning a Dublin parking facility standing in the way of the full pedestrianisation of the Grafton Street area that “nobody gets up in the morning to visit a car park.”
Dublin City Council (DCC) has confirmed that cars will largely be banned from four streets in the area from the end of this month.
The streets will either traffic-free or partly traffic-free after 11am from May 24th.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Dublin Town CEO Richard Guiney said the plans are not ambitious enough.
“The public wants more pedestrianisation,” he said. “Regularly, in surveys, by factors of four and five to one, they want more pedestrianisation.
“I think what is being announced is very partial. For example, on South William Street, less than 20% of the street is actually being pedestrianised so it is a bit of a mix and match.
“I think we need to do the right thing. We had trials last year, they were very successful and it was great to see families on the street.
“We have struggled in the city to encourage families to visit the city. It was great to see kids on the street and I think we need to show more ambition.”
Only a small portion of South William Street will be pedestrianised after the Brown Thomas carpark informed the council that reversing its entry and exit points would cause it insurmountable structural difficulties.
It means that only around 30 metres of the street will be pedestrianised.
Mr Guiney said DCC had informed Dublin Town that one car park was standing in the way of the further pedestrianisation of the area.
“We would really appeal to that car park to work with the council in terms of changing its flow,” he said.
“It may mean they need to make an investment, but nobody gets up in the morning to visit a car park. They get up in the morning to go to the restaurants, cafés, entertainment, leisure etc.
“So, we would really encourage them to actually work with the rest of the city. Their viability is dependent on the viability of the businesses around them. There is no point being an island open in a city of closure.”
Mr Guiney warned that city centre businesses are “highly, highly vulnerable” at the moment.
“We know that businesses in the hospitality trade have been closed for practically a year and they will need access to outdoor space,” he said. “They won’t be allowed have patrons inside.
“So, I think we need to take a big picture view of this and that will mean more pedestrianisation.
“We also found that, when retail was open on its own without hospitality, the footfall was about two-thirds of what it was when hospitality was reopened.
“So, the retailers need the hospitality businesses and the hospitality businesses need the retail businesses – that is how the city functions. Our USP (Unique Selling Point) is the diversity of the offer.
“At the peak of the recession then years ago, we had vacancy rates of about 15%. Prime Streets will have double that on the reopening. The city is extraordinarily vulnerable and if we don’t make the right decisions, we won’t have the city as a commercial entity in the future.”
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