A €380 million urban quarter, mixed-use development planned for Bilberry, which will have a centrepiece building more than four times taller than any other in Waterford, will totally transform the city’s northside face.
A planning application is to be lodged imminently – probably this Friday – with the City Council for ‘Water Haven’, an ambitious project earmarked for the 13-acre Suir-side site of the former Waterford Iron Foundry, later Waterford Stanley.
Subject to planning permission, the scheme, proposed by local developer William Bolster of Bolster Group, will create 400 jobs during construction and a similar number on its projected 2014 completion. It will feature what Mr. Bolster describes as an “iconic” 119-metre high, 32-storey building with 22 floors of apartments above 10 floors of offices.
This building will also house a sky view area offering unprecedented views of the city, east County Waterford and south County Kilkenny, while an eye-catching 20-metre high roof feature will echo the elegant design of the nearby cable-stay bridge included in the Waterford City Bypass.
Currently the tallest buildings in the city are at Railway Square and Maritana Gate (seven stories).
The brown-field “opportunity site”, as described in the Waterford City Development Plan, will also accommodate a 15-storey, 156-bedroom hotel along with underground parking, restaurants, smaller office units and duplex apartments.
In addition, the hotel will have a large conference centre capable of accommodating 500 delegates, helping make Waterford a more attractive venue for business tourism. The hotel and apartment building will be linked at the 10th floor to the taller office and apartment building. The 55 sq. m. area linking the buildings will itself be a striking design feature and partly available as a unique meeting venue.
A state-of-the art leisure and fitness centre will include a gymnasium, spa and swimming pool while the scheme also includes marinas with 80 berths.
An extension of the Waterford and Suir Valley Railway (by almost a kilometre) to allow the train run to the site of the former Waterford South railway station at Bilberry is also being facilitated by the design team which is led by Waterford-based CJ Falconer & Associates, Chartered Architects & Planning Consultants. The railway works will also leave open the possibility of light rail ultimately running along Waterford’s south quays.
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The residential component of the entire development has been specifically designed to ensure a wide mix of occupancy with the 395 apartments designed and sized to suit families as well as couples, sharers and sole occupants living in a secure environment. One-bedroom apartments will range from 70-72 square metres; two-bedroom from 92-103 sq. m. and three-bedroom from 120-129 sq. m. Three-bedroom penthouses will cover 170 sq. m. There will also be safe play areas for children in the development which applies sustainable development principles throughout.
Speaking about the project, Mr. Bolster, who has recently extended his construction interests to Poland and is a member of the consortium planning a stylish, if controversial golf holiday resort at Garrarus, said the site provided an opportunity to put Waterford on the map as a Gateway City.
He said: “With work continuing at a great rate on the Waterford City Bypass, including the second river crossing just upriver from our site, there will be a whole new experience for those approaching the city by rail and road within the next couple of years.
“What we plan for Bilberry will be a key element in Waterford presenting a more confident face to people arriving in our city.
“The taller iconic buildings are also a bold statement about Waterford’s ambitions and confidence as gateway to the south east while it is also a major plus that it will bring a disused former industrial site into appropriate 21st century life. This will help enhance Waterford’s appeal as a genuine riverside city and meets the sustainability objectives of strengthening the city’s core, at the same time making the best use of available lands.
“We are also very pleased with the mix of residential, office, leisure and hotel accommodation that our plans provide for, as they take advantage of what is a great riverside location and the site’s proximity to the city centre which is within comfortable walking distance.
“There are also opportunities to develop art galleries and appropriate retail, educational and ecclesiastical facilities in this urban quarter while we are very excited at the prospect of having access to and from Kilmeaden by light rail as this also allows our scheme relate to what will hopefully become a university campus which is just along the river at Carriganore and to the gardens at Mount Congreve.”
So far, close to €20 million has been spent getting the plans to this stage and while Mr. Bolster is happy to field any criticisms of an objective nature, he feels the scheme is hugely positive for Waterford. In keeping with current regulations, the project aims for an A rating in “green” and environmental terms and his is happy that the EPA will monitor and guide operations in that respect.
A scale model and images of the Water Haven scheme will be on public display on the ground floor of Maritana Gate, Canada Street, Waterford, from 10am-4pm this Wednesday and Thursday, from 4-8pm Friday and from 11am-3pm Saturday.
The Mayor, Cllr. Mary O’Halloran and members of the City Council have already visited and were highly impressed.