Shopfront improvement scheme is ‘too small’

Shopfront Improvement Scheme 2019
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Dublin City Council’s South Central Area office is now inviting applications under the Shopfront Improvement Scheme for 2019.

The scheme, which has operated for the past four years under the Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative, supports businesses and property owners. This allows renovations and improvements to their shopfronts and building frontages by supplying 50% of the money, which is needed as part of the wider renewal of the area.

In the Liberties, the scheme has provided on average €30,000 each year to assist local businesses, and to date has supported over 50 projects. The budget for the scheme comes from the South Central Area Office’s budget for local improvements and is also supported by the Discretionary Fund, a supplementary fund for projects in the area determined by local councillors.

Stephen Coyne, programme manager for the Liberties Business Area Improvement Initiative, believes that the scheme is “definitely” worth the money spent on it.

“Last year for example, the scheme stimulated almost €250,000 of investment in properties in the area,” said Coyne.

“It has also encouraged a ‘best practice’ approach to shopfront design, this is particularly valuable for the Liberties, which is a designated architectural conservation area. The scheme has complemented the very significant work that the City Council has been undertaking to revitalise streets and public spaces in the area.”

Local councillor Michael Mullooly (Fianna Fáil) is also “generally in favour of the scheme”.

“Where the improvement scheme has been used, it seems to have been used fairly well.”

He said the big advantage of the scheme is the historical preservation aspect: “If your shop has historical features, Dublin City Council can assist in the conservation of these historical features if you receive the grant.”

When asked about whether he feels the scheme has changed the negative perception of the area, Coyne said, “Sometimes people’s perceptions stem from a lack of familiarity with the place – they may not have visited the area for a while.

“The process of revitalising an area like the Liberties takes time and the effort of a wide group of stakeholders. I think that the quality of the area has dramatically improved over the past five years.”

On Thomas Street, “shop vacancies are down, new businesses have arrived on the street, a number of very significant refurbishments of historic properties have been undertaken and the street itself has been refurbished with new paving and lights,” Said Coyne.

“I encourage everyone to visit the Liberties and rediscover a vibrant attractive area of Dublin.”

However, Mullooly said that though the scheme is good, it’s “too small” to make a huge difference within the area. “There’s only a certain amount of money each year and there’s an awful lot more to do; you can see this in places like Cork Street.”

Mullooly said that he would like to see more money going to the scheme, but he was clear he wanted it to remain a grant and not become a full subsidy. “It would be really unfair to the taxpayer if DCC was contributing all of it, but I think it’s a good scheme and it should be continued.”

In addition to the main commercial streets of the Liberties, the scheme this year applies to Rialto, Dolphin’s Barn and the Leonard’s Corner area of Lower Clanbrassil Street.

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