A WELCOME MOVE ON MICHAEL STREET

It’s good to see some positive movement to the Michael Street development with works on the sizeable city centre site now imminent.
There may well be more than a few objections or submissions to the project on some aesthetic grounds, objections people are fully entitled to make known, but it will give the city a lift when construction gets under way.
As UCC’s William Brady observes on News 25, this €17.3m project “could signal a transformative moment for this city” and “would appear to be a concerted effort by a combination of public and private interests to coordinate the delivery of two major regeneration initiatives which could be hugely important for Waterford”.
Prior to last week’s announcement, there had been some funding concern issues about the project in the aftermath of the crash but confidence is now thankfully building.
Back in 1990, prior to the opening of City Square, construction was halted for a period, when the city went through a previous rocky stage but this didn’t remain the case and the centre was opened successfully three years later.
The current period, we realise, is still far from easy for many in the city, is also not easy, but in three years time, we’ll be hopeful to see the development nearing completion.
Combining the old with new in a city such as ours is never easy, particularly in such a dense area that this site is located in, and also taking the city walls into account. Nonetheless, cities must move on and modernise.
Retailers now want larger units in city centres rather than small family run shops of the past.
So to entice larger retailers such as H&M from Sweden, Zara from Spain or Marks and Spencer from the UK, we need units of a specific size and finish: the Michael Street development will, at long last, mean Waterford will tick that particular box, thus staving off stop some of the leakage to Cork or Kilkenny that we have traditionally experienced.
We can never compete with Dublin and its many offerings, be it the city centre, the Dundrum Centre, and the accessibility of IKEA to the city via the M9 and M50, but we can punch better than we have up to now, hence the significance of this development.
The city fathers have long since identified the need to improve Waterford’s retail offering. The financial crash was a huge blow to Waterford and knocked out many property developers and investors. Slowly but surely, some are returning, while bank finance remains a difficulty. The election of a new government would also inspire more confidence, and the electorate deserved better than the dithering which has marked the post-election political climate up to now. For example, the consequences of a ‘Brexit’ have been knocked off the political radar given the ongoing stalemate in the government formation talks.
The Opko announcement on Thursday last, which will see 200 new jobs created over the next five years by the company which took over Eirgen last year, was another welcome boost. While we have a long way to go on several fronts, there are signs of economic encouragement locally which cannot be ignored. More of the same in the coming months would do nicely.

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