One critical actor in the story is Liam Carroll, the man behind Zoe Developments. According to Frank MacDonald, an Irish Times journalist, Carroll was the king of Dublin’s apartments. He bought sites cheap, built blocks cheap, took the tax breaks on offer, and moved onwards and upwards. Since the early 1990s, he has had dealings (of various sorts) with U2, Google, Bohemians football club, Dublin Bus, and many others.
But now his activities seem to have come to an end. Offices complexes in the Docklands lie empty; hotels have been converted to apartments; and planned developments have been scuppered. Many debts he owes have been left unpaid – and for one Dutch-owned bank, ACC, that’s been cause enough to chase Carroll’s firms through the courts.
Some sense of the extent to which Carroll built Dublin – the extent, indeed, to which Dublin is Carroll’s City – can be seen in the map shown below. Each marker shows a Carroll site, which might consist of one or even multiple apartment or office blocks (offices are red pins, by the way). The markers also state when the location is (more or less) first mentioned in the Irish Times, which was the archive used to build the map.
It’s all pretty impressive. What a man! Then again, what a legacy. Many of the developments are ‘shoebox’ apartments: banal, small places that rapidly have been surpassed by newer, better-insulated and better-designed apartments. Zoom in on the inner-city and you’ll see numerous mid-1990s blocks whose low quality and small size will, without refurbisment, likely become part of Dublin’s 21st century slums. Look beyond the inner-city to see other parts of Zoe’s footprint on Dublin: the Inchicore and Chapelizod area, the Docklands zone, the Tallaght Cross developments, and Cherrywood. It’s an impressive geography.