City and County CEO upbeat about city centre rejuvenation
Speaking to WLRfm’s Sinead Ahearne following last Thursday’s meeting, Mr Walsh noted that the plan was built on eight ‘pillars’, namely: Economic, Tourism, Primary Urban Centres, Environment, Heritage and Culture, People and Communities, Our Services and Communications.
“We’re trying to concentrate on the high level things that we can have an impact on in Waterford, which we’ve expressed through those eight pillars,” he said.
“Economic development is really at the top of the agenda in terms of job creation, tourism, heritage and culture, recreation and amenity – in all of these areas we have very distinct areas of involvement. And overall objective is to enhance quality of life and to make Waterford a better place to live, work and play in a sense and to do business in.”
Stressing that the Council Executive will be returning to the Plan at future Council meetings, i.e. within the next six to nine months, Mr Walsh said it was critical to “adjust behaviours” in the event of elements of the plan not delivering as expected.
The long-awaited Michael Street retail project is a key element to the Plan’s success, with Michael Walsh listing it among his top three priorities between now and 2019.
“In many respects; we are close to closing out the overall product. We’ve an awful lot of work done in terms of urban renewal – and the Viking Triangle is only one element of that.”
He added: “There’s (also) John Roberts Square, George’s Street, the Quays, the latter of which will be completed in the current year – but what we do recognise is that there’s another piece of work to be done there.
“And central to that is getting a new shopping centre into the Michael Street area. That will, I think, bring us a sustainable shopping product that will help everything; it will help locals, it will help visitors and it will enhance the attractiveness of the city.”
Following “a good deal of redesign” on the Michael Street proposal, Mr Walsh hopes that the Executive will be “making a strategic decision with NAMA in the next number of weeks as to whether we’ll progress with the planning permission or not immediately or whether we’ll go to seek developer interest immediately – that’s a strategic choice we’ll be making in the next number of weeks and we’ll be making that public once we’ve so decided.”
Beyond the Michael Street development, Michael Walsh stated: “We’re also looking to improve the public realm as well in the John Street/Michael Street/Arundel Square area and at that point (upon delivery), we’d have an extremely nice, compact city centre of small, interesting streets with a decent shopping offering – and it’s not that far away; in my own head I believe we’re looking at a two to three-year proposition – and we’re working very hard on that with NAMA and others to try and make it happen.
“And I feel that if we do get there, we will have a city centre that will compare favourably with any place else in the country and, indeed, maybe the world.”
Notes Mayor James Tobin in his foreword to the plan: “We are also obviously very much under the influence of the national economic picture.
“In many of these areas, we have no choices. In many others – and within the constraints of local resources – it is a matter of balance.
“Balance between one priority and another, balance between one area and another, maybe even a balance between this year and next.
“At all times, however, the greater good of Waterford has to be the driving force and the ultimate determinant where there exist elements of choice.”