Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Grange Inn and the 'DIT effect'

The Grange Inn pub on Lower Grangegorman Road

At one time the Grange Inn at 19 Grangegorman Road Lower was a cosy, quiet, great little local working-class bar. It was originally going to be a key location for my third book in the 'Moss Reid' crime series, Ghost Flight. Then the recession dragged it down.
The pub's rotten (at the time) location on a side street away from the main drag of Brunswick Street and Smithfield / Stoneybatter didn't help. It was too out of the way. So last year it closed; I had to shift the novel's action to another location further west.

It didn't help that the pub was surrounded by abandoned houses with their boarded up black windows and doors, all that graffiti. Welcome to Grangegorman, a bit of a kip alright.

Derelict sites at Lower Grangegorman Road

Derelict sites at Grangegorman Road Lower

But all that's about to change. Next week 1,200 students and 200 staff from the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) will arrive at its new campus at Grangegorman.

Many of the newcomers will head up the Lower Grangegorman Road past the Grange Inn to one of the campus's main entrances. Last week there were still plenty of detour signs, men in hard hats, digging machines and derelict houses.

Let's not kid ourselves. For many years large parts of Grangegorman were falling apart, which makes the current rapid regeneration of the campus quite staggering to see.

Last week it was still a vast building site. Some large stretches will continue to be for the next six years. In those surrounding streets the lines of derelict houses are still derelict, or being used by squatters. But not for much longer...

'The DIT effect'

Within six years DIT's schools and colleges, currently scattered across 39 separate sites in the city, will be consolidated into a single campus. By 2020 Grangegorman will have more than 20,000 students - one in ten of all third-level students in the Republic.

All this redevelopment, this huge influx of people, will have major repercussions for the surrounding areas of Smithfield and Stoneybatter. It will have spin-offs for shops, cultural organisations, transport hubs and affordable places to live.

While the campus will eventually have accommodation for 2,000 students, there will still be huge pressure on rent levels in surrounding areas - the lack of cheap student accommodation in Dublin has already reached crisis levels anyway - and this in turn will "affect the demographics", as they say.

Most of those abandoned houses will become a thing of the past, as the investors and speculators and greedy landlords swarm like hyenas and gobble up the remaining spaces, evict the last of the squatters, pull the old buildings down and squeeze in as many shoeboxes as they can to milk the students and college workers.

Stoneybatter already has a bit of a reputation as an upcoming area for gastro this and artisan that, but imagine the "DIT effect" on local cafes and pubs and places to live. Imagine what it will mean for previously rundown, off-the-beaten-track kinds of businesses like the Grange Inn, the nearest watering hole to that campus entrance.

I wouldn't be surprised if nothing remains of the old pub but its licence. It will be renamed, rebranded, repositioned and all the other "re" words, and will eventually become unrecognisable to its previous clientele from the neighbourhood. It will probably even get canopies and street furniture.

The opening up of Grangegorman

For most of the past two centuries Grangegorman had an intensely sad history, which I return to in other posts. Much of the district consisted of prisons, poor houses, asylums. Not exactly open stretches of public parkland for the local citizenry.

Besides the real-life repercussions for our neighbourhood, the opening up of Grangegorman and the "DIT effect" will have implications for fiction too. I'm being self-centred here and thinking of my 'Moss Reid' series.

Last week I happened to be back in Grangegorman on the new campus, researching possible murder locations.

That sounds ever so pretentious - as if I were traipsing around with my PA and a forensic scientist and a location manager from the film company. Actually I was mostly left to my own devices. Lots of construction workers, no students to be seen.

I bumped into a few bewildered staff wandering around the place, asking if I knew where the art department was and so on, whether I knew which direction Broadstone was, and Prussia Street.

The poor lost lambs. I can't blame them. It's a huge campus, at the heart of an area of the city that up to now has been completely unknown to many people outside it. Suddenly for all these newcomers - these students, workers and college staff - Grangegorman is very much on the map, and the Grange Inn will be firmly on it too.

I'll cover the restoration and redevelopment on the campus in a separate post with much nicer photos, and keep an eye on how the pub gets on.

Postscript: the Grange Inn (including three flats overhead) was sold in an auction by Allsop Space ("Allsops") in October 2014 for €590,000. Allsop Space had hit the headlines 12 months earlier after protests halted its planned auction of repossessed properties at the Shebourne Hotel in Dublin.
And the attempted mass evictions began at the Grangegorman squat at the bottom of the road on 23 March 2015 as NAMA tried to send in the bailiffs with angle-grinders and steel poles. See this report by
And after all that, the Grange Inn will now be known as The Orchard, apparently.

A further update, March 2017: the pub is now The Barbers