At Government Buildings on The Glen, a model remains remains on display which offers a glimpse of what Waterford city’s North Quay could look like.
While it may not be everyone’s aesthetic cup of tea (I for one think it looks great), the proposal makes for a darn sight kinder visage that what sadly remains in rusting, derelict reality today.
That nothing remotely of note has been done to improve the site between the 2005 Tall Ships Race and the event’s return here next summer is a source of great disappointment.
Of course, it shouldn’t require the arrival of tourists or foreign dignitaries to get things done but that quirkily tends to be the Irish way of doing things (i.e. Tour de France’ 98 and Ryder Cup ’06).
Taxpaying residents on both sides of the Suir, those who will live, work and die here long after the Tall Ships Race arrives and departs, deserve better.
That the defaced Ard Rí Hotel above the North Quay has served to visually degrade the area even further over the past 18 months in particular has made a bad problem even worse.
It’s difficult to avoid throwing one’s eyes to heaven and wondering if there’s anyone out there with the ‘liathróidí’, vision or, most importantly, money, to reverse the spiral of dereliction on the Suir’s north bank.
Now, the whys and the wherefores of the site’s history are well-known and have been repeatedly written and spoken of in local media over the past three years.
But the ‘legalese’ that surrounded the collapse of the €37 million (marina, hotels, apartments, etc) rejuvenation of a 13-acre site in February 2008 matters little to the general public.
Hence, this column is not going to get back into the thick of something already discussed ad nasueam before the courts.
As any house-proud reader will tell you, having your home presented in the best possible light is something most of us strive for when visitors are calling, especially those from abroad who may not call too often.
How your home looks at the time of that visit may not represent how the gaffe looks most of the time, but there’s no shame in wanting to put ‘your best face on’ from time to time.
That’s why Mary Roche’s call for action on the North Quay, including measures which wouldn’t involve anything like a €37 million investment, deserves to be highlighted, considered and digested.
Converting the North Quay into a “useful purpose” area for the people of Waterford and South Kilkenny wouldn’t have too many rushing objections off to An Bord Pleanála, one imagines.
Wrote the Waterford Mayor on a recent blog entry: “My suggestions would be simple enough and simply achieved if people had half a mind to. They include either a simple park layout or a series of sports courts and pitches or even the dreaded (car) parking.”
Personally, allotting further space for cars on the Quay wouldn’t be ideal, but if a park was installed on the site, a relatively small scale parking facility would have to be installed.
Of course, a pedestrian footbridge from the South to the North Quay (which has long been mooted) would reduce the potential for another sprawling parking area on the opposite side of the Suir.
As things stand, the level of car parking on The Quay is a dreadful way of utilising such a pleasant waterside location, but it’s difficult to see the South Quayfront’s function changing any time soon. But that’s a discussion for another day.
Creating a park is a great idea and would certainly underline the current Council’s ongoing commitment to the ‘greening’ of the city.
Given the location, there’s scope aplenty for a spectacular water feature as well as the permanent mooring of a suitable ship which could be converted into a Waterford maritime museum, for example.
A municipal sports facility encompassing codes which may not be currently catered for at the Regional Sports Centre (tennis, handball, cycling) hardly sounds too madcap a proposal either.
As Mayor Roche stated, even if what she has in mind represents an interim use for the North Quay ahead of any wholesale revamp, surely it’s better than what we’re currently left staring at?
As Irish city centres go, there’s no doubting Waterford’s geographical distinctiveness. Approaching from Dublin/South Tipperary, the cliffs of Bilberry and Mount Misery make for a spectacular entry point.
Beyond both lies “the most noble Quay in Europe” according to historian Mark Girouard, the potential of which, in modern times at least, has been neither realised nor positively exploited.
The North Quay’s future doesn’t depend on chromed high-rise commercial cathedrals alone.
In Celtic Tiger retrospect, thinking big hasn’t always served the country too prudently – we’ve got enough white elephants already methinks, one of them just a stone’s throw from the North Quay in Ferrybank, for example.
But given the many positive innovations that have been created within the city over the past year, seeing some of this ‘can-do’ energy devoted to revamping our north quayside would surely lead to better things.
Surely this is one ‘ball’ of public discussion that deserves a good rolling.