Launched off the plans in 2003 at the height of the property boom, Adamstown was not going to be just another west-Dublin housing estate. The country's first strategically designed development aimed to create an "urban place with a strong sense of identity that is attractive and desirable as well as safe and secure in a traditional town and village format", South Dublin County Council boldly announced.
"It will have a mix of land uses to provide amenities, facilities, service and employment to enable the community to work, shop and recreate locally," said the brochure.
Construction started three years ago at breakneck speed as developers fell over each other to become part of Ireland's answer to Milton Keynes. But then Lehman Brothers went belly up in the US, the recession ripples reached west Dublin and the diggers fell silent. And while the target is still 10,000 homes with a population of at least 30,000 – larger than Athlone – the reality is that today just over 1,000 homes are occupied, just 10% of the target occupancy.
"While the pace of residential development has moderated in recent months, due to external economic factors, the development of key infrastructure and facilities is continuing at a steady pace," South Dublin County Council said in the Adamstown newsletter last month.
But when the Sunday Tribune visited, there was little evidence of this "steady pace" of infrastructural development. Draped over the Sentinel building in what is to be the town square, a large white banner heralded the opening "in summer '09" of the convenience store. But there were no workers inside fitting out the shop in expectation of the hordes of shoppers to come through the doors. Elsewhere in the town centre, new but unopened coffee shops and hairdressing salons had 'To Let' signs outside proclaiming what 'wonderful retail opportunities' lay within.
Though it was the middle of the day, not one person was either coming from or going to what is being flagged as the nerve centre of Adamstown, enabling the community to "work, recreate and shop locally" as the brochure puts it.
In fact, all of the streets were empty save for the odd car or tipper truck wending their way through the well laid-out streets, flanked on both sides by largely unoccupied beautifully designed duplexes, apartments and houses.
"The place has come to a complete halt," said one of the few passer-bys with a wistful sigh.
Two women pushing two buggies, each covered in a burqa, looked left and right and right again before crossing the road to the town centre. They needn't have bothered, no car was in sight.
Adamstown is beautifully designed and laid out and the buildings successfully avoid the 'rabbit hutch' layout beloved of those large-scale housing developments on the outskirts of major cities.
Last February, Adamstown won a major UK planning award from the Royal Town Planning Institute in the 'Sustainable Communities' section. The judges said they were impressed by the quality and scale of the development of Adamstown.
One such 'key feature' is the Adamstown train station. With its space-age design, it looks like one of the stops for the SS Enterprise. But not one person was in the station bar waiting on a train when the Sunday Tribune visited.
Elsewhere, the 151 bus from Adamstown to Dublin city centre, and back, pulls up at regular intervals. No route cutbacks here. But all the buses are empty.
A few yards away, a special park'n'ride facility has room for 300 cars at €4 a day. Just six cars were huddled together in the car park closest to the station. Right outside the station, eight bicycles were parked in a shelter which can cater for 100 bikes.
Down the road from the commuterless train station and just up from the empty town centre, there is plenty of activity at the two national schools. Tony McGinley, principal of the St John the Evangelist national school is decidedly upbeat about the future prospects of Adamstown.
"Most schools start off in pre-fab buildings. We walked into this," says McGinley. "This is the second fastest growing school in the country. We opened in September 2007 with 59 pupils and four teachers. Today we have 210 pupils and 15 teachers," says McGinley.
But he later admits the school has a capacity for 450 pupils, which means that it is less than half full. "I don't know when but we will reach that capacity," he says.
Further up the road, builders are putting the finishing touches to one of the few infrastructure projects that will be finished on time – another state-of-the-art secondary school with capacity for 1,000 pupils.
Its principal Tom Newton is busy preparing for the school's opening in September. But he admits he will only be taking in 80 first-year students and will have to wait another five or six years for the school to fill. Even then, however, it seems that the Adamstown secondary school will also operate at half capacity.
According to a survey by Amárach consulting and South Dublin County Council conducted last February, 59% of the Adamstown residents are Irish nationals. Surprisingly, the next biggest block is Asians at 17% – well ahead of their proportion nationally. Indians and Pakistanis are the largest group within that group and this is largely explained by the proximity of computer giant, Intel, which hires many IT workers from those countries. A majority of residents (57%) say they are Roman Catholic while the remainder are a range of religions including 'other Christian' (16%), non-religious (10%) and Islam (7%). Just 1% say they are of the Protestant faith.
"Intel and pharmaceutical company Wyeth are big local employers," says McGinley.
And that represents good news for the long-term sustainability and success of Adamstown as both companies have – so far – withstood the worst of the global downturn.
Moreover, over 80% of residents are working while just 3% are unemployed – a quarter of the national rate of almost 12%.
Adamstown can also be described as an advertiser's dream town. Two out of three adults are under the age of 35, more than half are single, three-quarters are working and two-thirds are in the ABC1 social category. Yet there are no facilities in the area for these people to spend money.
The town's first convenience store has yet to open while there is no sign of any cafés, bars, hairdressers or cinemas. Most residents shop in nearby Lucan. Community facilities are also lagging behind. A community facility "will be provided," say the brochures – but no firm date is given. A library is also planned but again there are no concrete details.
A large-scale leisure centre is also at the planning stage, including all-weather football pitches and a swimming pool. Permission for the development was granted last year but no soil has been disturbed. Large hoardings surround the barren sites, with one proclaiming 'Football pitches – coming in 2008'. No one has replaced or updated the hoarding. Another hoarding heralds the arrival of the swimming pool with the slogan 'Come on in, the water's great'. But again the site is untouched. And as we leave Adamstown, yet another 151 bus speeds past us, bound for Ireland's Milton Keynes. It is empty.