Dublin’s Fruit and Vegetable Market is up for redevelopment for the first time since it opened its doors in 1892.
This represents an exciting and historic opportunity for Dublin to finally get the long anticipated market to rival the best in Ireland and Europe.
As commercial rents balloon in Dublin, a low rent market, especially for foods is required more than ever, offering a welcome alternative to the multiples that dominate Dublin retail. A dynamic market place that can give routes to market for Irish producers and entrepeneurs and encourage startups.
So what is the problem?
Dublin City Council is planning to redevelop the Fruit and Vegetable Market by way of a private tender. The tender process, proposed by DCC, involves a private developer investing private capital (estimated at €3 million) into the redevelopment of this presently public structure before operating the market itself as a fully private concern.
The danger of this approach are numerous
After the private developer has invested finances, no matter how benevolent, they will need to recoup their investment relatively quickly, plus profit. This could make stall fees inaccessible for basic food traders, start-up enterprises, artisan food producers or seasonal traders (which are the type of traders that would make for a dynamic enterprising market worthy of the capital city).
This is a financially motivated tender and is DCC not taking financial responsibility for its own market. It is hard to understand why DCC cannot find funds on long term loans as well as European Structural money to finance this themselves. It is not a lot of money for what it represents to Dublin and then DCC would have full control of the project. As it stands a private developer who has the skills to retro-fit an historic market building may not have the skills or vision required to run a successful municipal city market.
The story of the derelict Iveagh Market across the river is an ominous example of where the private interest is not necessarily in the public interest and also of the complications for DCC when something like this goes wrong. We want to avoid this at all costs. So why lease the city’s only other municipal market building to another private developer. Surely we can avoid repeating history and approach this differently.
There will be more financial incentives for a private developer to turn the market into an expensive and exclusive eatery that is primarily focused on tourism and dining, instead of a vibrant retail marketplace that showcases the best of Irish produce, as well as being truly inclusive to all of the diverse citizens of Dublin.
This is not just an empty building that can be let to the highest bidder as it is the last legal market place with a market right in Dublin and this must be considered. The market right was made for the benefit of the citizens of Dublin and has constitutional protection. DCC have an obligation to provide this marketplace and there is a potential conflict were it leased to a private operator as it is the duty of the elected councilors to make bye-laws and most importantly set the fees. (See supporting documents)
Tourism is not a panacea for retail food markets, and all of the press releases from DCC (see Supporting Documents) about creating a tourist attraction are unsettling. Tourism has virtually destroyed The Borough Market’s retail businesses and is a big problem in The English Market and Barcelona’s Boqueria. This market must primarily be for Dublin citizens and designed in such a way as to minimise the impact of tourism.