Waterford City Manager Michael Walsh has appealed to the local business sector to get on board and reap a dividend from the City Council’s investment in tourism development, including the creation of the new Waterford Crystal entity aimed at retaining as many as possible of the 300,000 annual visitors to the old factory showrooms.
Updating the City Council on Monday night regarding progress on the Crystal project within the old ESB site on The Mall, he said one set of contractors had been active there since early December and a second group would join them next Monday. “We are proceeding with all haste and I’m satisfied everything will be in place for a June 1 start-up”, he told the members, adding that the timeframe was tight but it was being managed closely.
He said that in tandem with the Crystal plan, development of heritage projects in the same general area would continue apace, including the creation of a museum within The Bishop’s Palace which, he promised the Councillors, would be restored to its former splendour. The intention is to transfer Council staff currently occupying that building to new offices across the road.
Ultimate goal
The ultimate goal, he said, was to generate momentum towards a Destination Waterford drive which would substantially boost tourism numbers and it was in that context he invited the commercial sector to get involved. “I would see our investment as the catalyst and there will be a dividend there for those who avail of the opportunity it presents”, he asserted.
At the same time, he emphasised that, in the context of the Crystal plan, the Council was simply providing the premises to house it; after that it was the operating company, WWRD Group Holdings, which was taking any commercial risk in terms of manufacturing and retailing the product.
An optimistic Manager predicted that Waterford would be in ‘a very different place’ even within six months, with further major opportunities presenting themselves over the following period. He announced a major national and international launch of the Crystal project in Dublin, provisionally set for June 25.
Appeal to receiver
Mr Walsh referred to the planned disposal of the Kilbarry site by the Waterford Crystal receiver, saying it had nothing to do with the new development at all.
In that regard, Cllr Seamus Ryan appealed to the receiver to give some of the proceeds to the former glass workers whose pensions had collapsed. He also enquired if a government contribution to the new Crystal plan was ring-fenced, to which the Manager said he did not want to comment.
Cllr David Cullinane voiced fears that the Kilbarry site could end up in a derelict state and he also voiced the hope that the Glass Social Centre, with all its facilities, would return to public ownership.