I live and have so my whole life in an area with no fixed name between Portobello to the south and the Liberties to the north with Leonard’s Corner as the epicenter. Throughout my life, I have noticed gradual changes in the area. What I have noticed is the gentrification of the area. This gentrification would have begun before I was born but has intensified in more recent years.

The term gentrification was coined by Ruth Glass in 1964 in relation to her concerns about the accelerating rehabilitation of Victorian lodging houses in London, particularly Islington, the tenurial transformation from renting to ownership, property price increase, and the displacement of working class occupiers by middle class incomers. Gentrification put simply is the process of revival and renovation of deteriorated urban neighbourhoods and districts by the buying and renovation of houses or shops by upper or middle income families or individuals. Thus improving property values but often displacing low income families and small businesses that were there beforehand (Slater, 2010). I have seen this happen in my area first hand.

The area came into existence when an area of private estates and farmland was transformed into solid red bricked Victorian living quarters for the middle classes on the larger streets and terraced houses for the working classes. The houses in the area would have been the first to be built along the South Circular Road. The first being built in the 1860s. Some of the houses were built by the Dublin Artisan Dwelling Company (Casey, 2006). Gradually the more upper class families would have left the inner city, leaving the bigger houses to be subdivided up into bed sits for lower income individuals. Between the late 1800s and the end of world war II there was a large Jewish community present in the area, with the area being known as little Jerusalem (Keogh, 1998). By the 1960s the area would have been largely a working class area. Today this is not the case.

Today in my eyes the area is largely moving to that of a middle class area such as Rathmines or Ranelagh thanks to gentrification. So in some respects it is returning to the type of area it once was when houses here were first built. Where it was a predominantly affluent area. This can be seen through everyday life in the area. House prices have gone up. Nicer cars can be seen parked around the area. More and more houses are being renovated. The type of people in the neighbourhood has changed. The neighbourhood has become more affluent with international movie and sports stars now living in the area. Perception of the area in the media has improved. People have begun to call the area as a whole Portobello when Portobello has historically only been the area to the south of South Circular Road. People will brand areas with a name that is not entirely true to enhance its reputation, a factor in gentrification (Ortega, 20100).

One major difference has been the changing retail spaces of the area, which I will look at in detail. There has been a huge influx in boutique coffee shops in the area. When I was growing up I cannot recall one coffee shop in the local vicinity and now there are at least ten within a stone’s throw away. Coffee shops have long been seen as a metric for gentrification. In the research paper “More Coffee, Less Crime? The Relationship between Gentrification and Neighborhood Crime Rates in Chicago, 1991 to 2005” they looked at this. They wrote “Coffee sellers use specific marketing language to recreate high-culture ideas tied to art and philosophy for its customers, targeting an ideal bourgeois patron.” They went on to discuss that they are “Not dealing in a necessary comestible product, such as milk or bread, but rather a status product, coffee shops are integral to the leisure and lifestyle amenities package so attractive to urban gentrifiers. In a post-need economy, coffee shops meet the urban consumer’s demands for a space to meet friends or use the Internet, demands which were mostly absent from the neighborhood’s prior population.” They saw that measuring the number of coffee shops located in a neighborhood each year provides an almost real time measure of gentrification (Papachristos et al., 2011). Thus the rapid expansion of the coffee shop industry in my locality shows the fast gentrification of the area.

Map showing the influx of cafes in the area


Blue pins indicate cafes.
It would take about ten minutes to walk from one corner of the map to the other, to put it in perspective.

The Changing Retail Spaces of the Area

Brother Hubbard café, Harrington Street


With the slogan “the café you’ve been looking for” really enforcing that this is a status product for the upper and middle classes. This space used to be an Apache Pizza takeaway when I was growing up. As the new middle class gentry of the area do not want cheap pizza but overpriced coffee, soup and sandwiches. The changing of this space from takeaway pizza shop to up market café shows the gentrification of the area greatly as takeaway pizza would have been more a custom with lower income individuals who would have previously inhabited the area.

Little Bird coffee/yoga, South Circular Road


This space is now both a café and yoga studio located on South Circular Road. Up until about two years ago it was a family run newsagents which was put out of business by a larger Tesco express store opening up a few doors down. This space shows gentrification as a small family run business was put out of business by a multi-national company opening up right next store with whom they were not able to compete with. Then an entrepreneur saw the space and opened up a business that could thrive with the new clientele in the area.

Tesco Express, South Circular Road


Before Tesco this was a Nationwide bank. There are two Tesco expresses just like this in the local area. This invasion into the area of the multinational grocery Tesco truly shows gentrification as it has pushed the smaller family run businesses out of the market place, as they can’t compete with their buying and selling power. Such as the newsagents where Little Bird now resides.

The Headline Bar, Leonard’s corner


The Headline Bar on Leonard’s corner is prime example of a retail space changing in line with the tastes of the new middle class locals. In recent years the bar has undergone a total overhaul. It no longer serves the regular beverages served in most pubs such as Guinness, Heineken, Smithwicks etc. but only serving Irish and international craft beer along with only independent Irish Gin & Whiskey. Its interior has over gone a makeover, getting rid of the old pub feel. They have also changed their food menu, which is no longer your average run of the mill pub grub but an extensive menu with everything from calamari to goulash. This is a clear business model to attract a certain clientele. Also to deter old locals they no longer have any televisions to broadcast sporting events, which would have been popular with older locals. The changing of this bar clearly shows gentrification in the area.

Noshington Café, South Circular Road


Bibi’s Café, Emorville Avenue


Originally spaces like these would have been small family run newsagents. However this would have been over twenty years ago. They would have lain vacant for years in between now and then. Recently more and more cafés like these have popped up in the area. They are clearly marketed at middle to upper class people with their menus, price range and style. They show clearly the gentrification of the area.

Gaillot et Gray, Clanbrassil Street Lower


This is a Café and bakery in the morning and then a French styled pizzeria in the afternoon. The space was formerly a bookmaker. Bookmakers have always been more popular with the lower classes then the middle to upper classes. This new bakery pizzeria is clearly targeting the middle and upper classes that have moved into the area with their artisan breads, pizzas, and speciality coffee and indigenous herbal teas.

All of these businesses represent the gentrification of the area. Many of the businesses that have been replaced were akin with the likes of the working class such as takeaways, family run newsagents and bookmakers. While the new business ventures are geared to that of middle and upper class tastes such as boutique coffee shops, artisan pizzerias and craft beer pubs. It is yet to be seen if this gentrification is a positive or negative for the area. I would believe the answer to this depends on your own personal situation. If you are middle class you would see this as a positive for the area while if you are from a lower class background you would certainly have a different view of this rapidly changing area as you are increasingly feeling somewhat out of place in the area.



Casey, C. (2006) Dublin: The City Within the Grand and Royal Canals and the Circular Road, with the Phoenix Park (Pevsner Architectural Guides: Buildings of Ireland). Yale University Press.

Google Maps, (2016) Map of Dublin. (Online). Google. Available from: (Accessed 10 November 2016)

Keogh, D. (1998) Jews in Twentieth-century Ireland. Cork: Cork University Press. pp. 64–70. ISBN 978-1-85918-150-8.

Ortega, A. (2010) The Disputed Neighborhood: Gentrification of “East Williamsburg” and Identity in the Shared Space. Article 1, Volume 5. Hofstra University Papers in Anthropology.

Papachristos, A. V., Smith, C. M., Scherer, M. L. and Fugiero, M. A. (2011), More Coffee, Less Crime? The Relationship between Gentrification and Neighborhood Crime Rates in Chicago, 1991 to 2005. City & Community, 10: 215–240. doi:10.1111/j.1540-6040.2011.01371.x

Slater, T. (2010) Gentrification of the City, The New Blackwell Companion to the City. New Jersey: Wiley-Blackwell

Slater, T. (2015) “Planetary Rent Gaps”, Antipode, DOI: 10.1111/anti.12185

Tisdall, R. (2016) All Photos




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