That the main streets of the South East need a leg-up is made plain by walking along any of them. Be it Waterford, Tramore, Cappoquin, New Ross, Carrick-on-Suir and even in parts of Kilkenny city, there are, at present, far too many vacant units.
Vacant units not only means there’s an economic deterrent in play, but there’s also an accruing social and residential deficit.
“The place is dead after six o’clock” is a phrase that has been all too frequently associated with the John Roberts Square area of our city centre for far too many years. But there is no denying it, and when one walks through George’s Court in recent months, one cannot avoid being struck by the empty units, a scenario we hope will not be in play for too much longer.
More open shop doors means greater commercial activity, an increase in the local consumer spend, greater local employment and an enhanced ambience along our main thoroughfares. The ESRI may never measure good vibes in their many detailed reports, but the feel-good factor in any urban centre should never be underestimated.
As anyone who has walked through the great food markets of Europe, North America or a North African souk can vouch for, such places crackle with the electricity of people and business alike. While we lack the population base of most of these cities, that’s hardly sufficient reason to maintain the status quo.
"What’s been achieved with at Waterford's Applemarket is proof that Waterford City & County Council did not sit on its haunches during the recession"
What’s been achieved with at Waterford’s Applemarket is proof that Waterford City & County Council did not sit on its haunches during the recession. What will be achieved at the Michael Street and North Quay sites via the Falcon Real Estate development is an “I told you so” cheque we’re all waiting and expecting to cash. A delegation of investors which flew into Waterford Airport on Monday of last week was spotted on a city centre ‘reccie’ was an understated but significant development.
Coming three days after the Government launched its South East Regional Enterprise Plan in Waterford, it was welcome to see some of those who will be responsible for our enhanced economic future here on the ground.
The new plan makes provision for an audit of the main street of at least two towns per county (one above a population of 10,000 and one below 10,000) with the states aim of increasing activity in such areas.
The plan aims to achieve the following by the end of 2020: To significantly reduce vacancy, to increase numbers living in town centres, to convert vacant commercial properties to residential use, to paint and renovate unsightly properties and “to prepare development briefs for key town centre properties and sites”.
Intriguingly, the delivery of this objective will also be measured via a “consistent and regular feed of good news stories to (the) general public”.
With co-operation with each area’s Educational Training Board also cited, this Town Renewal Project will be led by the region’s Local Authorities “and will explore funding to deliver on the objective on a regional basis with (the new) Ireland South East Development Office”. The South East Regional Steering Committee will select the 10 towns for the project and are due to announce the selected towns by the end of June. We await this news with interest.