IRELAND’S OLDEST FOOD COOPERATIVE FINDS A PERMANENT HOME
After years of searching Dublin’s increasingly competitive property market, the Dublin Food Cooperative (DFC) has finally found a permanent home in Kilmainham.
The Newmarket Dublin 8 area has changed considerably over the last decade. The abandoned construction sites that once mocked the demise of the Celtic Tiger are slowly giving way to new student housing, apartment blocks, and hotels. When DFC moved from Pearse Street to Newmarket during the depths of the recession, it was always with the view that it was temporary. The search for a more permanent premise began almost immediately. What the search committee didn’t realise at the time though was just how difficult it would be to find a new home.
According to a JLL Irish Property Index report released earlier this year, commercial property values have almost doubled from the trough in 2013. As the economy has grown and new businesses have opened, the number of affordable commercial properties in Dublin available to lease or purchase has declined dramatically. It is against the backdrop of this competitive market that DFC’s premises committee searched to find a new location.
Paul Farrell DFC Board Member and long-standing member of the premises committee recalls “there was always a sense of urgency to find a new premises, but none of the properties ever seemed quite right and perhaps in the back of our minds there was always a hope that if we couldn’t find a new place, we’d be allowed to stay in Newmarket.” That hope was dashed when earlier this year DFC Board members were notified that the plan to develop Newmarket, which had been suspended through the recession, was now back on. The Newmarket premises DFC had leased for eleven years was to be torn down in just a few months time to make way for a new development, and with the deadline for eviction now imminent, DFC was under enormous pressure to find a new home.
Patrick Flynn, DFC Board Chair, Architect, and Lecturer at DIT believes that during particularly difficult times Fate can sometimes play a part in the solution. “It was a very difficult time. We faced huge pressure to find a new premise quickly in a market with very few suitable properties. We were turning over every rock and couldn’t find anything. Then we heard about Kilmainham. I’ve seen this happen before, you can look for years and find nothing suitable and then the next day find exactly what you need. Just when you’re about to give up, a solution appears.”
The solution for DFC was to buy a property in the heart of Kilmainham, and with financial support from Community Finance Ireland and Donore Credit Union, they were able to secure a premise perfect for the Co-op.
The property is right beside Kilmainham Gaol, which according to Failte Ireland welcomed 425,000 visitors in 2017 making it one of Ireland’s top 20 tourist attractions. Aoife Hammond, DFC’s Acting General Manager, sees the new premises as the next step in DFC’s growth. “We’re definitely sad to leave Newmarket, but now that we’ve found a new home we’re looking forward to introducing organic foods and our cooperative ethos to a whole new member base.”
Sam Toland, DFC Co-operative Secretary, believes the cooperative model is the key to DFC’s sustainability. “Our motto is ‘Deep-rooted in the community since 1983’. We’re excited about moving to the new premises in November, and because for the first time in our history we own a property rather than lease, we anticipate staying in Kilmainham for many years to come. It’s important to remember though that ‘Community’ isn’t as much a place as it is a culture built and reinforced by committed people around shared values. Our members form the foundation of our co-operative and have always been the roots of our community. As long as we maintain a strong membership, we’ll continue to grow and thrive.“