Plans are underway to transform the old ferry terminal into a Harbour Innovation Campus — state-of-the-art centre for technology, marine and design businesses that could support up to 1,000 jobs.
The former Ferry Terminal on St. Michael’s Pier was built in 1996 to replace an earlier 1960’s building. It was specifically designed to handle up to 750 foot-passengers at any one time and included everything one would expect of a busy passenger terminal: a duty-free shop, arrivals hall, departures lounge and baggage hall.
This terminal which catered exclusively to the needs of foot-passengers was doomed from the start. Less than a year after it opened, Ryanair floated on the stock market, and low-cost air travel quickly became a much cheaper and easier way to visit cities across the UK.
Duty-free shopping was abolished under EU law in 1999 and foot passenger traffic dropped to just a few dozen people per day.
Linking harbour and town
In 2014, the ferry operators vacated the building, thus ending the long history of ‘Boat and Train’ journeys by foot-passengers from Dún Laoghaire to the UK. The Ferry Terminal currently stands as a cold reminder of Ireland’s legacy of emigration. It is empty, lifeless and serves no useful purpose whatsoever.
Philip Gannon, CEO of Blond Capital, hopes to transform this spacious building into a world-class innovation campus that will create employment and provide an essential link between the harbour and the town.
Gannon remembers departing from the Ferry Terminal 25 years ago, bound for Britain in search of work along with thousands of other young emigrants. His vision today is to “repurpose this culturally significant building to create a beacon to all who believe that in today’s digitally-connected world, emigration is no longer a necessity in the search for economic prosperity.
He wants to transform this place where talent went to leave the country into a place that will attract the best talent in the world — the talent that will help to grow Irish business and lead to the export of Irish goods and services instead of Irish people.
“The Harbour Innovation Campus will now be all about arrivals and not departures,” he says.
Gannon has signed a 10-year lease for the disused building which he envisions will comprise a state-of-the-art shared innovation space for local and international companies, and directly inject around €20m into the local economy over the next 10 years.
At almost 7,000m2 (75,000sq ft), the campus will be the largest such hub in Ireland and one of the top five in Europe, housing up to 1,000 workers across the former arrivals hall, departure lounge, baggage hall and ticket office buildings.
“Inside the Harbour Innovation Campus, founders, innovators and entrepreneurs can avail of VC funding, trained mentors and business advisors all focused on helping occupants to grow their businesses. This unique space presents a great opportunity to boost not only Dún Laoghaire and the surrounding areas, but the country as a whole.”
No significant building work is required to the building exterior and the interior will be (reversibly) transformed into beautifully designed co-working space with sensational sea views from almost every desk.
Innovation incubation hub
The campus will provide an inspirational work environment for a community of founders, freelancers, entrepreneurs, R&D teams and investors, who will work together to form an ecosystem based on collaboration, innovation and creativity.
It will be home to at least fifty different small businesses primarily working in marine, media and technology related industries. Each company will be given full access to mentorship, training, accelerator and incubation programmes, meeting rooms, community meet-up areas, production studios, maker space, a café and large restaurant, plus other benefits to enable businesses scale-up both nationally and internationally.
Up to a third of the working space will be allocated to marine research and innovation programmes to support sustainable development of Ireland’s marine resources. Projects may include oceanography; the marine environment; aquaculture; seafood safety; fish health and education and outreach.
“The co-working phenomena is already very well established worldwide, and there is a clear need in south county Dublin for a large creative workspace where marine, technology and media-related companies can share ideas, collaborate, develop exciting new products and services and create cutting edge technology,” says Gannon.
To access the campus 24/7, a monthly membership applies. (No lease, no rates, no utility bill or management charges etc.). Also available is 10 GB broadband, 150 car-parking spaces and unlimited free coffee and fruit water.