The Pheonix of Dublin, Ballymun – Joe Hester

29 Oct

            As one of my mobile seminars I was given the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Ballymun Regeneration Limited. This was a program set up by Dublin City Council to improve the area of Ballymun.


            Before setting out to Ballymun, I was talking to some of My Irish friends about where I was going. The majorities of the reactions were that of shock. They told me of stories of how bad the area was how they would see no reason to ever visit. It seemed to me that there were some preconceived notions about this neighborhood.


            Ballymun was a neighborhood set up by Dublin city council that provided a large amount of subsidized housing for those living off of welfare in the Dublin area. In 1960, the Ballymun tower blocks were erected and Dublin started to move people out of downtown Dublin into the apartment blocks. Many problems came along with this community; many stemming from poorly planned developments. Firstly, there was a major highway splitting the community into two halves. This created a lack of a downtown or central area. Without a main street there was not a great sense of community and anti-social behavior was created. Secondly, the Housing developments were very much vertical. This meant that there was ample housing but the tall buildings created empty lots. The lots were breeding grounds for crime and drugs. The community of Ballymun quickly spiraled into one of the most undesirable neighborhoods in Dublin.


            Ballymun Regeneration Limited was set up by Dublin City council in the 1990’s as a project to restore the community. The project had many clear goals of what they needed to do in order to restore Ballymun. First, level the apartment buildings and start to build laterally. This action did two things: eliminated the lots and gave people actual property. Second, they needed to create an actual community. They eliminated the high way in the center of town in order to give Ballymun center more accessibility. They also created community centers, sports facilities, art galleries and shops in the center of town. These facilities are things that we normally take for granted but we can see how devastating the effects of an anti-social neighborhood through Ballymun. Lastly, they set out to draw revenue to Ballymun. BRL wanted to change the name of Ballymun from one that invokes images of heroin addicts to one of shopping centers and affordable housing. One of the largest Draws Ballymun has is the introduction of Ikea. This brings much needed traffic and revenue for the town and there are plans in work to renovate the current shopping center to make it bigger and better.


            Unfortunately, due to the poor economic situation the Ballymun Project is being phased out and will be eliminated by the end of the year.  However, it seems that Ballymun is on the right path to recovery. It is nice to see a regeneration project on the way to succeeding. In the United States, after hurricane Katrina, many of the subsidized housing areas were demolished and erected as private housing. Many contractors took advantage of the disaster to move all the people out of the area to create better neighborhoods. They did make nice, but at the cost of the previous tenants. This happens all over the US and it is a nice change to see successful projects do exist abroad.


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