The positive news on the North Quays is very welcome, after the long legal delay over title issues. Thankfully, this will give Waterford a boost at the beginning of the year.
However, there has been concern about the state of retailing in the city centre and concerning its attractiveness for evening times.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that Waterford lost out this year to other centres like Cork and Kilkenny in the battle for Christmas trade.
Brown Thomas and Marks and Spencer are big draws in Cork as is the Mahon Point Centre, curious shoppers also checked out the new MacDonagh Junction in Kilkenny, where some new UK retailers have positioned themselves. Both these centres are dependent on outside trade to boost their turnover.
Waterford has not had a new centre for over 10 years apart from the out of town retail outlets. People are saying we have not kept pace with other centres and a major lead is needed to correct this position. The Brewery development will be a response to this but will take years to build and get up and running, given the various planning delays and hearings.
In the meantime, Waterford has to encourage local people to shop in Waterford and outline the strengths that it has. More local business should be encouraged to open up and add to choice.
Is there a location where rents are cheaper and rates are less where such local business could get established? Should certain locations be targeted to encourage such type of business?
This is often the case in other cities where new start-ups are not in the prime areas because of high rents. High real estate values has meant that the city centre locations can now only be afforded by national chain stores, thus reducing individuality for local shoppers looking for a different retail experience.
Another negative factor is that these areas no longer have much activity at night. The Lonely Planet book last week noted that Waterford had some seedy elements. The city could do without such publicity, but when you look at many bars closed, like Paul Flynns, Alfie Hale’s near the Tower, Egans near the Cathedral, it gives a bad impression. Kilkenny seems more vibrant say some.
Bar closures mean that there is less for tourists to do staying in hotels and they must go to other hotels for entertainment. Local people are not using the city centre at night as much, although the John St. area still seems to be vibrant, other areas could do with more activity. Price could be an issue, as is drink driving.
People are staying in local areas more for their evening entertainment and the city centre is suffering. At some stages at night the city can be a little intimidating and may frighten some locals.
Some action plan is needed to revive the city centre and halt what seems to be an element of decline in night time activity and the need for more shoppers. More citizens eating and going out in the city centre needs to be encouraged.
Traders and operators may need to encourage more people to use the city and be happy about it.