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.

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