Dublin was on its knees. Anybody who knows Docklands today would be aghast at its condition then. The place was in rack and ruin. Container-based cargo – both lo-lo and ro-ro – had decimated the dockers’ communities around North Wall, East Wall and Ringsend. There was no longer a demand for manual labour in the docks, which had been one of Dublin’s great employers.
What to do? When it opened in late 1981, the IDA Pearse Street Enterprise Centre was the first of its kind in Ireland and the largest in Europe, intended to respond to the needs of inner cities by boosting industrial activity, retaining jobs in the area and preventing the outflow of firms to the outskirts. The IDA wanted to “bring together on one site established city centre industries, successful new high-technology companies, craft workers and people trying out for the first time fresh products, new markets and original ideas.
“The Enterprise Centre idea is an old one,” it acknowledged, “and dates back to the earliest industrial times when craft and commercial enterprises, of varying degrees of interdependence, came together in one settlement, sharing common facilities yet retaining their individual identities. Companies locating here can avail of service facilities [accountancy, marketing, design services and administrative support] normally available only to larger companies.”
The IDA’s Inner City Development Programme proposed the development of 34 acres of industrial land at seven locations: Prussia Street (0.5 acres), Marrowbone Lane (1.2), the Liberties (1.8), Ringsend (11), Pearse Street (5.2), East Wall (4.5) and a second site at East Wall (10). The Pearse Street Enterprise Centre is, therefore, best understood as part of a much broader concept of inner city renewal that included a housing programme and the provision of schools and other amenities to sustain existing communities. G & T Crampton won the tenders to build the first three Inner South City renewal projects – the Enterprise Centre and two housing developments, at Ringsend and City Quay.
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