HOW BALLSBRIDGE GOT ITS GROOVE BACK

  • Business Post
  • Published 09.04.2019

    As other city ‘villages’ brace themselves for a huge wave of development, the D4 borough’s rebirth as a vibrant local community shows there is light at the end of the tunnel.

    Ongoing in Donnybrook village and its residents fearing a loss of their sense of community, our attention turns to the neighbouring Dublin 4 borough of Ballsbridge. An 18th-century settlement and once part of the estate of the Earl of Pembroke, this affluent hamlet at the heart of the capital’s embassy belt is coming out the other side of a transformative wave of construction and is actively reviving its village identity through a new initiative called Ballsbridge Living.

    Spearheading the drive is Paddy Byrne, a fourth-generation local pharmacist whose business is located on Merrion Road. Nicknamed the Lord Mayor of Ballsbridge, Byrne has worked in the area for some 30 years and knows most of the people who live in the borough. “We’ve gone through the phase of losing our village identity, and feel that it’s now returning,” he said. “There are a number of things that are feeding into that change, including Lansdowne Place [Chartered Land’s luxury 215-unit development on the corner of Lansdowne Road and Shelbourne Road], which has come on board and is very much geared at the owner-occupier market. We’re seeing more people retiring into the area, which previously would have had more buy- to-let developments.” Another, arguably pivotal, factor in fostering the renewed community spirit is the borough’s participation in the Tidy Town programme, membership of which comes with its own benefits.

    “I lived in New York briefly, and used to visit Washington Square Park for its Friday night comedy events,” said Byrne. “There’s a bandstand in Herbert Park and I’m pushing for comedy nights there during the summer months. Once you have Tidy Town insurance, it allows you to hold community events.

    “And in terms of support, Dublin City Council has been instrumental in providing high-vis vests and paint for our voluntary road mark painting event a few weeks ago and the council provided bags, gloves and pickers for our local community clean-up. “So, if DCC can’t provide physical manpower, they offer support in other ways like that, which makes a huge difference to us. It’s amazing how quickly that voluntary support spreads locally, too,” he said. “Lots of calls and texts came in looking to get involved when we refreshed the road markings. Ballsbridge College on Shelbourne Road runs courses in event management and

    its students have organised their own clean up event; and its horticulture students have been given permission to plant a [bee-friendly] ‘buzz garden’ on a small patch of waste ground beside Pembroke Library. So involvement is evolutionary. The community has always been there, but it’s never had any focus. Tidy Towns is about getting pride back in the area and that’s what Ballsbridge Living is about. People love living here because it’s so close to town and convenient, but they go into town to socialise and to eat and forget that there’s lots on their own doorstep. Ballsbridge Living is about putting Ballsbridge firmly in their minds as the place for them to do business, to live, to socialise and to enjoy.”

    There’s a sense that the sprawl of high-end multinational corporates that have dominated the neighbouring Ringsend area and nearby South Docklands has now extended to Ballsbridge. The advance is reinforced by Facebook’s move to AIB’s former

    Bankcentre site and the €450 million landmark Comer Group development at Number One Ballsbridge. Located on the former University College veterinary college site, the mixed-use campus is home to 88 high-end apartments, the swanky headquarters of aircraft leasing company Avolon, and a delectable choice of eateries including Avoca, Shelbourne Social and Butlers. They join stalwarts such as the Royal Dublin Society (RDS), established in 1879, and the Aviva Stadium, the headquarters of Irish football and rugby, along with Roly’s Bistro, a slew of high-profile embassies, Herbert Park and numerous premium hotels, including the Herbert Park, the Clayton Ballsbridge and the Intercontinental. Ballsbridge’s natural border with Sandymount is the Dart line. Our natural border with Donnybrook is Herbert Park,” said Byrne. “We don’t work in isolation, though. We work together, planning community clean-up days with both communities, particularly in Herbert Park. We’re playing catch-up with what has been done in Donnybrook in terms of Tidy Town initiatives. Everyone learns from the process.”

    Ballsbridge Living has had a few initial rounds of fundraising: key supporters include Chartered Land, the RDS, Irish Life, Dalata Hotels and local real estate group Sherry FitzGerald. Its immediate focus is to raise awareness about Tidy Town-related events in the suburb and to encourage local residents and businesses to become involved.

    At the moment the Ballsbridge Tidy Town drive comprises a group of four. The plan is for this to grow into a full committee with representatives from each road in the suburb, so that everyone is involved and has a vested interest.

    “This is a long-term project,” said Byrne. “It’s been a long time on the boil, and was interrupted by a need to build a flood wall along the river Dodder, following a major flood event in October 2011.

    “Now that the wall is almost complete, I’ve refocused on Ballsbridge Living, which will eventually be membership based. We have a lot of events planned initially, including a Fourth of July event, nature walking trails, the [last Carnegie-funded] Pembroke Library, the Herbert Park comedy events, and a host of events being held in the RDS, including five concerts as the Aviva Stadium is being re-seeded this summer.”

    Byrne’s involvement is wholly voluntary. He is known as someone who gets stuck in and gets the job done. He said he got enjoyment from watching people come together and have fun. With him at the wheel, there’s little doubt that Ballsbridge Living will have a metamorphic and vastly positive effect on the suburb.

    This article by Tina-Marie O’Neill originally appeared in
    The Sunday Business Post, Property Plus, 7th April

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