'Dublin Docklands - An Urban Voyage’ is a work in progress, commissioned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, and due to be completed in the autumn of 2008. The following tale represents research I have undertaken for the project which may or may not be used in the final book.
Situated at the City-side entrance to the Port Tunnel, the East Point Business Park (www.eastpoint.ie) was the brainchild of the late visionary property developer Dermot Pierce, FRICS, (1947 – 1999). Terence Browne described Pierce in a lyrical and poignant chapter entitled ‘Because a Fire was in his Head’. He suggests the butcher’s son from Clontarf was driven, to quote Yeats, ‘by the vast and vague extravagance that lies at the bottom of a Celtic heart’.
A chartered surveyor by profession, the deeply energetic Pierce came to prominence in the 1980’s when he masterminded the conversion of the south side of Dublin’s dilapidated Earlsfort Terrace into the avenue of glazed contrasts that presently lights and reflects the formal grandeur of the National Concert Hall opposite.
By 1990, Pierce had acquired a landfill site of 27 acres for £3.75 million opposite the Clontarf seafront on the northern shoulder of Dublin Port. The site formed part of lands reclaimed in the 1960s from the tidal backwater by Dublin Port. Surrounded by oil storage tanks, container shipping berths and rusting cranes, it was accessed by a short concrete bridge over the Tolka estuary from the Alfie Byrne Road on the mainland.
Pierce became convinced this landfill could be paved over and converted into a light industrial park where thousands might work. He set up a hut on site and invited Harry E. McKillop from Ballycastle, Co Antrim and Dallas and his colleague, Isaac Manning, architect of a 17,000 acre industrial office park in Dallas, to survey the scene. Pierce gave them the full pitch and worked out the sums on a packet of 20 Major cigarettes. ‘Seven pounds fifty a square foot; and they are charging thirty pounds around at the docklands centre’. Browne remarked that it had ‘all the colour and excitement of a good three-card-trick’.
As Chief Executive of Earlsfort Centre Developments, Pierce orchestrated the entirety, abetted by a band of disciples. Many undoubtedly lost faith along the way, as costs soared, budgets vanished and his high-risk visions exploded. ‘When someone takes on a project like East Point they take on the world’ wrote Browne. ‘When they do it in Dublin, they take on Heaven and Hell as well. They take on the dead-weight of all the immovable people, all the apathy, all the bureaucracy, all the politics, all the blind envy, the unseen corruption, when people whose job it is to do something, simply will not do it’. Legend has it that, while walking some senior bank officials around the site trying to convince them of its potential, Pierce suddenly stopped and said: ‘It’s a pile of shite, isn't it?’ The remark brought considerable release and laughter to an otherwise tense situation. In the end, Anglo Irish Bank stepped up to the mark.
The vast bulk of the Park’s first 23 buildings were designed by Brian Roe of Scott Tallon Walker and built by Ged Pierse Contracting (no relation of Dermot). The Park was landscaped by Charles Funke Assocaites who have recieved awards for both the original plantinga nd the on-going maintenance. A further 9 buildings have since been completed on an 11-acre extension to thePark made available by Dublin Port. One of the costlier aspects was environmental. The land had been reclaimed using an assortment of builders' rubble and domestic waste. Engineers O'Connor Sutton Cronin were summoned to deal with the methane gas, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulphide emissions, as well as numerous soil and groundwater contaminants. Each building in the Park now has a gas monitoring unit and there is an on-site monitoring suite and off-site monitoring centre.
In 1995, the first 64,000 sq ft building was bought by four investors for £7.25 million and pre-let to ACT Kindle, the financial services software company founded by Kieran Nagle. The company proved a valuable launch customer and was quickly joined by Oracle. Lufthanasa, Sun Microsytems, Cisco, Quintiles, AOL and Bertlesmann followed. Before long there was a constant stream of inward investment projects coming straight from the airport. Today, the Park also hosts offices for Google, Yahoo and, as of August 2008, the headquarters of Enterprise Ireland.
By the time of his premature death in June 1999, Pierce’s dream was a reality, albeit a campus driven by hi-tech software, telemarketing and research and design, rather than the light industrial park he had originally envisaged.
He had achieved the remarkable, creating something from nothing. One-and-a-half million square feet of waterside, tree-lined, air-conditioned offices, bringing together over five thousand people who between them form one of the most dynamic corner stones of the modern Irish economy.
See: Selected Poems and Essays from The Dangerous Press by Terence Browne, © 2003-2008 The Harry McKillop Irish Spirit Award www.irish-spirit-award.com
East Point byHay Machine (e)
(in memory of Dermot Pierce)
Making such a something
out of such a dump of nothing
is the hardest thing of all
and it gives us all hope
The artist mixed his colours
and stretched the canvas surely
his reclining naked model
more a reminder of the task
than a source of inspiration
from the Clontarf Road for years
where some genius planted crooked christmas trees
rooted in broken cavity blocks
buried along the embankment
Dermot Pierce released its (methane) spirit
with imagination intellect and will
and his rubblemound
yielded hope and dreams realised
Cherub and Seraph
palette and paint
carrying the torches
with straight lines curves water and aluminium visors
suspended ceilings raised floors
and carpet allowances
priced for all the whinging fortune-five-hundred misers
silvery-grey and black when it rains
detailed down to the monogrammed drains
shoreline walks and rooftop tennis
Bolivian stalks lasagne bandwidth attitude and Guinness
Water into wine
aspirations into covenants
the Russians have a saying
that you shouldn't eat the blossom
(wait until the fruit is fuller)
breathe its scent of course
and feast yourself upon its colour
With thanks to Terence Browne and Roland O'Connell of Savills Dublin.