Given all the merited and topical commentary on the future of the North Quays, hopes are understandably high for a massive and welcome investment on the site which we hope will bring long overdue prosperity to our city and region. And we can look to other ports across the globe for proof that such investments are worthy and necessary.
Barcelona received a great boost through the awarding of the 1992 Olympic Games which also led to a major port investment, while Bilbao in Spain was enormously boosted by the superb Guggenheim galleries.
Bristol and Liverpool have also benefited from great re-vamps, as has Newcastle Upon Tyne and we don’t have to look too far to see how a port redevelopment has helped to boost a city/regional economy when considering the success of the Titanic Quarter in Belfast.
The area is now a huge touristic draw with new hotels being built or significantly in both the city and its environs.
While the Alhokair proposal will be on a somewhat smaller scale, it remains a very attractive development proposition and is a unique setting in an Irish urban context given the linear nature of the site and its opposing quayside. And given its sitting on the River Suir, the new development is set to prove a tremendous draw and a real regional “game changer” as many commentators have described it.
And with Limerick receiving an €85 million European Investment Bank (EIB) to redevelop the 1.62-hectare Opera site, in addition to plans to revamp areas of Cork City, these are most interesting times for the three cities in the province.
There are several superb waterside examples we can look to in France, which we have referenced in these pages previously.
For example, Bordeaux received a welcome revamp as soccer supporters from Ireland saw at first hand when visiting the city for the 2016 European Championships.
There is a massive new wine museum there which tells the story of wine from around the world. pavement cafes, walks, cycle paths and hotels are along the River Gironde.
In the Brittany/ Loire river region, Nantes and its satellite town St Herblain, which Waterford has twinned with, have undertaken a superb urban renewal project, which planners in our city would do well to be mindful of once the builders get on site.
Nantes was a former shipbuilding centre like Belfast and its old shipyards were vacant for years.
We spoke with Mayor Bertrand Affile of St. Herblain when he visited Waterford last October as part of a delegation which travelled from France to mark the 35th anniversary of the twinning.
For the relevant agencies in the Nantes Metropole area, this project proved a slow process, clearing buildings, and initially creating green spaces in addition to walk ways and cycle paths.
The town’s authorities also converted old warehouses into exhibition spaces and entertainment areas. In addition to this, Les Machines de l’île has been developed by the riverside and is described as “a totally unprecedented artistic project,” which includes a massive mechanical elephant that roams the shipyard site. We have seen this at first hand and what’s been done there is truly inspiring. Perhaps there could be a role for Waterford Spraoi in developing the tourist product for the North Quays?
For the full text of this story see this week’s edition of the Munster Express newspaper