Southern Ambition

Councillors Call for South quay Rebirth
Eoghan Dalton Reports

The local authority has been called on to match its ambitions for the North Quays with a green space on the South Quays, transforming the car parks into a unique attraction.
Cllr Jason Murphy (FF) believes the “green lung” would be an ideal way to link the old and the new on each side of the River Suir for decades to come. He says the several car parks along the quayside don’t match the vision for the North Quays and should be put to a different use. This, he told The Munster Express, would be based around Waterford’s heritage as a port city and would involve a strong ecological aspect as well.
He points to similar urban green spaces in the likes of Chicago and the port city of Tianjin in China (pictured) and insists similar can be done on a smaller scale for Waterford.

The example that first brought the plan to his mind is in the French city of Nantes. A delegation from the Council went there as Waterford is twinned with St Herblain, a suburb of Nantes. Cllr Murphy was Deputy Mayor of Waterford at the time of his visit. “They’ve a similar kind of background to ourselves, they would have been an industrial city once upon a time, through manufacturing and their port. But things changed, like in Waterford, and now they’re trying to redefine themselves and what they’re about.

“The Nantes one is fascinating because of what they have done with their quayside. They have made it into a cultural and artistic area, with these big, mechanical elephants that are harking back to the connections with Africa, which really would likely be the slave trade. I think we could do the same but on a scale suitable for our population. It’d mirror what’s happening on O’Connell Street with the Cultural Quarter and could bring people back onto the South Quays.”He continued: “With the Michael Street development and the North Quays development, there’s a great opportunity there to have an iconic urban green space like nothing I’d imagine there is already on the island. We’re adding 40,000 people to that side of the city through the North Quays, so this can be a ‘green lung’ between the new city and the old city.”

He says heritage monuments on the South Quays already, such as the crane, could remain and be joined by more tributes: “You could have public art that would hark back to the very proud tradition we have as a port in Waterford city.” Cllr Murphy has the support of Waterford City and County Council CEO Michael Walsh, albeit somewhat conditional. He told councillors earlier this month that transforming the South Quays is an “aspiration” of his, but doesn’t see any change on the horizon with those car parks flanking the Clock Tower.
For that central car park at the Clock, the local authority is entering negotiations to develop a plaza which can then be a landing for the planned footbridge running over the River Suir, as part of the North Quays redevelopment. Mr Walsh said at the June plenary meeting that he believes it will be a long term plan, “gradually removing bits of [the car park] or improving the physical amenity”.

One of the sticking points to Cllr Murphy’s proposal is the hundreds of car parking spaces currently on the quayside. Removing them without a proper replacement would be controversial and would not work, he admits.
As part of the plan to redevelop the North Quays and Michael Street, there will be an additional 1,600 car parking spaces split between each. Cllr Murphy believes there will have to be greater cooperation with Bus Éireann to add routes to the city as it grows; Councillors have been seeking a presentation from the company for the past number of months but to no avail just yet. He also sees a park-and-ride eventually having to be considered for people coming from outside the city.

“We kind of have to start from the beginning again in Waterford but there’s a great opportunity with the development of the North Quays and we have this space that is wide open for sustainable green development in the city centre. It could also help the city to really benefit from the Greenway. We have a mile long quayside there, from Rice Bridge right down to the Plaza. And you take the Plaza, it’s the most under utilised public space in the city because there’s nothing to bring people onto the quays other than parking your car,” he said.
The City South Councillor added: “As I understand it, the Harbour Board owns the other car parks and have long term leases on them to business interests in the city. I know it’ll be convoluted but so was the Greenway, and in that we carried out one of the most complicated CPOs to get the North Quays off the ground.”
While the CEO classed it as a long term plan, Cllr Murphy wants to see the wheels put in motion now and for negotiations to be explored with Port of Waterford to see if the Council can gain control of the car parks.
“We should be trying to get the car parks off the Quay, they just don’t fit with the vision of the North Quays. The owners of the car parks would have to be properly compensated but the long term rewards could far outweigh that and frame the city of Waterford well into the future. I just think, let’s grab it now and go for broke.”

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