In the face of recession, get creative…

Just bumped into Damian Mulley in a very cold and desolate Smithfield (in Dublin that is)… There’s a cold to it that puts you in mind of that joke about the only difference between Ireland and Iceland is one letter… What’s most striking (after the sheer lack of activity) is the for sales signs hanging on the as yet unsold properties, one very closed-looking hotel and lots of empty shops… But Simon McGarr has an idea:

Smithfield, as it stands, can’t maintain the required number of commercial enterprises to make it a viable place to live or work. I propose that it sets out to become a home to UnCommercial Enterprises.

By that I don’t mean that they would all be not-for-profits or that the people working in them wouldn’t get paid. Rather I mean that the landlord would offer the currently desolate spaces to applicants at no or, at most a token, rent.

High rents are what kills creativity in retailing in Ireland. Without that massive overhead, we could see a hundred strange ideas rise and fall. Instead of a monoculture (everything a clothes shop, because they have high mark ups and low staff needs, for example) we could actively manage the mix to encourage a diversity of shops and services.

Create somewhere people want to go to feel part of something and you will have solved Smithfield’s main problem.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • An fhirinne gharbh

    Smithfield was always a bad idea. I went to the Lighthouse cinema a few nights ago and was asked for money three times during a five-minute walk to the Luas stop. I say ‘asked’… Call me a snob, but Smithfield’s main problem is the people.

  • EWI

    Cold? It was relatively warm for the recent past weather when I passed by a well-known Nordie blogger outside Fresh, pondering on where he might check his Gmail.

    I was tempted to stop and introduce myself. Alas, myself and Mulley don’t get on so well, so…

  • Tochais Si­orai­

    Another problem there are the NIMBY residents who successfully objected to the square becoming a concert venue some years ago after a couple of gigs.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ah ya bugger! You should have. Net animosities are best to the net! Small town or what?

  • EWI

    Ah ya bugger! You should have. Net animosities are best to the net! Small town or what?

    You’re telling me. I twigged a fortnight ago to a well-known Serious Political Blogger being someone whom I had babysat (along with their siblings) many moons ago.

  • The Raven

    With regard to the topic, Simon is spot on. This is not just a problem facing the swish little boutiques of Dublin.

    The rent greed is something which affects a lot of small market towns in Northern Ireland too. Again we’re back to the notion of incentivising.

    Many of the property owners in question have long since paid for their properties. And yet many would rather sit with their properties empty than have a tenant in them at even a reduced rate. Similarly, there’s a need for local authorities, LPS and the Assembly (remember them?) to come up some new formulae on how commercial property is rated.

    I never quite understood how we ended up charging six grand for “services” on a property on the Lisburn Road just because someone was brave enough to turn it into a business.