(IRISH INDEPENDENT, May 8th, 2015)
Living in a town where students make up 80 per cent of the population might be some people’s idea of hell, but for the denizens of the north Kildare university town of Maynooth, it represents financial heaven.
Long before those student grants come through and local bars like The Roost, Bradys, and Saints in the Glenroyal Hotel are really hopping and heaving, the local retail, sports club, restaurant, take-out and nightclub tills will be kerchinging with the cash that comes with servicing over 10,000 fee-paying students and almost 1,000 academic and administrative staff at Maynooth University. And the many commuters to Dublin city living here.
Being the only Irish university located in a town – and its north and south campuses are right in the centre – has squarely placed it and the famous St Patrick’s College seminary and pontifical university that shares its north campus at the heart of the local economy, but this thriving market town has numerous other assets and advantages.
Located on the R148 between Leixlip and Kilcock, with the M4 bypassing the town, Maynooth is only 20 minutes from Dublin city by car or bus and the busy train station located in the town serves Dublin city as well as the west.
Having the station in the actual town has been a major benefit to the local economy also, as students and commuters can pop into the Manor Mills or Carton Park shopping centres on their way home and Dunnes, Tesco, SuperValu, Centra, Spar, Aldi, Lidl, Londis … all the major supermarkets have an outlet here.
Maynooth has also become a bit of a gourmet central recently, with a whole strip of notable dining hot spots on Main Street and the adjoining thoroughfares packing them in, and the word is it’s no use showing up on Friday or Saturday night and expecting a table at Stone Haven, Donatellos, Picaderos, The Gatehouse, Oak Alley or Bistro 53. Book early in the week for your satay night sit-down carbonara, dim sum, spicy noodles, or tapas.
The town is also on the Royal Canal, navigable from central Dublin to this point. It provides a lovely backdrop for walks around the town, or in the leafy grounds of Carton House, just to the south, or around the university grounds themselves.
Benjamin Franklin, the famous politician, inventor and American statesman, once noted that “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest”. Maynooth University certainly seems to have taken that dictum on board as it embarks on a €150m spend on academic, research and residence facilities designed to meet its target of increasing enrollments by almost 20 per cent in the next five years.
It is also set to become the first Irish university to allow students to customise their degree programme to their own interests and needs. The redesigned curriculum will be phased in from this September and be fully implemented in 2017. The idea is that students would go into a common first year, such as engineering or science, and delay decisions about specialisation. As Katherine Donnelly reported in the Irish Independent in March, students will also have options such as taking a language as part of any degree, and modules in areas outside their own core subject(s).
The university also has strong educational and employment links with with the nearby Irish “silicon valley” that contains the European and international headquarters of multi-national companies such as Intel, Hewlett Packard, Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
As well as the main campus in Maynooth town, the university also has a campus in Kilkenny city. It also houses the Froebel College of Education, which trains primary school teachers.
An illustration of just how well the student population and the university itself are integrated into the town is the way in which local gardai are informed about upcoming major events, such as Freshers Week, and the students organise their own clean up operations afterwards. It can’t be bad when a town containing so many students can still claim gold in the 2014 Tidy Towns large town category.
Continuing on the educational theme, another interesting development is the Maynooth Education Campus, which will be rolled out in 2017, on completion of building work at the Moyglare Road site on the north side of the town. Maynooth Post Primary school and Maynooth Community College, which opened within the grounds of Maynooth Post Primary in August 2014, will relocate to the new campus, where, as separate yet complementary entities, they will cater for over 1,000 boys and girls, representing “all faiths and none”.
The new entity will also have access to the new pitches and walking track complex built in association with Maynooth club which will open soon just across from the Maynooth Education Campus.
Carton House, as well as bring great financial benefits to the town through its spa, leisure and conference facilities, in also home to the Montgomerie and O’Meara championship level golf courses and contains the Golfing Union of Ireland’s headquarters and national coaching centre. The K Club is only 10 minutes away by car also.
Bus: Dublin Bus routes serving Maynooth: 66, 67, 67n Nitelink. Bus Eireann: 20, 22, 23: Many private operators also serve Maynooth: Streamline Coaches (Athboy, Cavan Town); Finlays Coaches (Dundalk); Kearns Transport (Birr); Slevin’s Coaches (Dundrum); James Mullally Coach Hire (Lucan); JJ Kavanagh (Carlow, Waterford, Clonmel, Limerick, Kildare); Offaly and Kildare Community Transport (Clonbullogue, Daingean, Co Offaly). Weekend: Ardcavan Coaches: Wexford; Calbus: Kilkenny (via Carlow); A2B Coaches (Monaghan).
As well as the secondary schools mentioned there is also the Presentation Girls National School, Dunboyne Road; St Mary’s Boys National School, Moyglare Road; Educate Together, Celbridge Road; Gaelscoil Ui Fhiaich, Celbridge Road
An older three-bed semi would fetch €230,000 and upwards, while a more recent addition would fetch upwards of €265,000. However, estates within easy walking distance of the train station, such as Silken Vale, Castlebridge and Parklands, would fetch €320,000 and higher for a three-bed semi.
14 Kingsbry (DNG Progressive), a three-bed semi is seeking €235,000, while two doors down, 12 Kingsbry (Property Partners Brady) is asking for €280,000. In the more upmarket Silken Vale, number 13 (DNG Progressive), is guiding at €335,000. Number 21 Straffan Place is opening at €265,000, while, at the higher end, the five-bedroom 51 Parsons Hall (Property Partners Brady) is looking for €549,000.
Estate agents locally report the lending cap has definitely slowed down the market in Maynooth, where prices rose by nearly 30 per cent last year. But prices are still rising, if more slowly. Will Coonan, of REA Coonan in the town, reports and he has noticed an increase in business in recent months, as the demand is still there.
However, student accommodation outside of the college campus has become a major problem over the last few years. Coonan puts this down to the market being no longer favourable for investors, who would normally provide the lion’s share of rented properties locally.
“It’s a double-edged thing, he says. “There’s less competitors for buyers, so good for them, but accommodation for rent is dwindling. It’s not just students, we are talking about people working in Intel and HP; they would usually rent for the first six months or so, before buying, when they maybe get a steady contract, but it’s it’s not there for them.”
- Excellent rail (same commute to work as Dun Laoghaire!) and bus service
- Easy driving access to Dublin city and all points south, east and west.
- Still no ring road around the town, so getting into and out can be a problem.
- Dearth of student and rented accommodation generally.