The future plans for Dundrum Town Centre
It would be impossible to match the sounds of walking down Grafton Street and city centre streets. A place where there are no musicians playing, no charity clipboards, no traffic noises, no rain, no wind, no cold. But instead, there are sounds of shuffling Ugg boots, the smooth roll of Bugaboo buggy wheels, the low sound of conversation chattering, the muffled clatter of coffee cups and cutlery, these are the sounds of Dundrum Town Centre.
Firstly, it’s not the same as shopping in Dublin city centre or in your local town, but we have changed our buying and shopping habits, we are not the same people we were before Dundrum Town Centre opened ten years ago. With the levels filled with bed-head hair “South County Dublin” teenagers and “Yummy Drummy” mummies, we have decided to use Dundrum Town Centre as our local towns.
This is the reason why it has been NAMA’s prized possession and it’s a given by who bought Dundrum Town Centre, that it’s very likely to become even more of a commerce front, still bringing in the thousands of people.
Back in 2005, when Dundrum Town Centre opened it’s doors, your typical Irish person was quite suspicious of it. It was portrayed as being too slick, too American, too neutered to really catch on with the likes of us.
The other view on Dundrum Town Centre was that it was only for the rich and those sorts with more money than sense, obviously of whom there were plenty during the property boom and the Celtic Tiger. But if we were to look into that logic of thinking, Dundrum should have in theory been washed away without a trace when the property bubble burst. But instead, despite the economic crash, Dundrum Town Centre did just fine. We as a nation used it not to go mad on spending, but as somewhere to be and hang out. It survived on this, and while its loans had to be sold by Nama, it did quite well for us, taking in €1.85bn for €2.6bn of loans. By NAMA’s standards, that’s pretty good, and it’s a sign that we are making Dundrum work, despite ourselves.
Who purchased Dundrum Town Centre?
One of the buyers is a UK property firm Hammerson, which spoke recently about bringing new big names into Dundrum Town Centre, building on their strong relationship and links with names such as Cos, Reiss and Mango, as well as Five Guys and Byron, both of which are higher scale burger restaurants, as if The Counter & Eddie Rocket’s were not enough choice.
Their purchase is not one of letting Dundrum continue to ease along as it is with no change. It is their opinion that us consumers want more. They’re have bought Dundrum to make it bigger and better. Ten years ago, many would have hated this idea, but figures don’t lie and in reality, we have embraced it, so maybe we should stop being critical about it. Because, the truth is, Dundrum Town Centre suits who we are as people today.
On your average Saturday, if you are to head down and look around Dundrum Town Centre, there are no stereotypes, is pretty much everyone. This doesn’t mean that everyone who is there with the cash to spend, but you can go to Dundrum and just buy a coffee, and there is the splash-out option in Harvey Nichols, that can be balanced by some cheap counterpoints in H&M.
You have the options to spend a lot or spend a little. There is people-watching, easily known meetups, there’s always Penneys for a whopper bag of goods for next to nothing, there is coffee available everywhere you look and there are people simply making the place work for them.
It just works for how we live today, even though we try to kid ourselves that we live differently, that we are different people to who we are today. Across the spectrum, we are busy people, short on time, and high on demands are made of us. We don’t have time to window-shop and we don’t have the energy to drag kids around the streets. We need something made easy and so we flock to the indoor haven.
Everyone is doing it. from roughly 9am, there is a stampede of buggy pushers, who have been up since the crack of dawn with their babies, who have found that just being surrounded by people and he hussle and bussle of activity and lights, they feel less alienated and more involved in the world. Then from 11am, there are the parents of older kids, who may also be awake since dawn for whom an early family-friendly movie is the ideal downtime, followed by something to eat close by. That’s the perfect family day out in the cold Winter.
The parents of the small children tend to the centre by 3pm, when a wave of teenagers and adults tend stroll in. There are kids at birthday parties, whose mothers get to take their time in BT2 or Zara while they have free hands and minds.
There are the larger gents who head for a protein-only meal in Nando’s, with rugby, football and GAA widows jamming the car parks when there’s a big match on. There are separated dads who wouldn’t know where to start with their kids without this place and are very thankful for it.
But while we all have our eyes are on how the new owners might add their stamp to improve the Town Centre, maybe there’s a little room to consider the past. There is certainly room for improvement in the old Dundrum Shopping Centre, which has become like the poor relation of the Town Centre in recent years. It might give a nostalgic approach lift to Dundrum, probably increase its footfall in the number of shops in the village, and to revive a centre that was a height of activity back in the 1980’s. We still love that feeling that is buried in our hearts of the atmosphere of shopping through streets instead of a Mall, even if Dundrum Town Centre seems to have it all.