In the past week there have been several calls to re-develop Waterford city’s North Wharf
Visitors disembarking from cruise ships must wonder why nothing is happening there and see semi dereliction which was described last week as akin to a scene from Stalinist era Eastern Europe.
The property recession has done nothing for the site, nor too its multiple levels of ownership which have stymied any meaningful reworking of the 5.7-acre over the past decade or so.
When we look elsewhere across the island, be it Dublin’s docklands (the National Convention Centre, the 3 Arena, ‘Googleland’, etc) and the Belfast Waterfront to name but two, we have proof of how new life can be breathed into once industrial-heavy hubs.
Plans have re-emerged to revitalise similar watersides in both Cork and Limerick cities, and it’s incumbent that Waterford city does likewise.
This is, after all, a prime location, providing a stunning vista of one of Europe’s finest urban quaysides, and it’s a shame not to see it being put to some form of use, be it as a commercial or academic centre or as a public amenity. In an ideal world, it would fulfill both functions.
While a long-term, permanent project might take some years to develop and proceed with, the area should surely be put to some form of use, ideally between now and the next tourist season, which Deputy Mayor Jason Murphy has called for.
Last Friday night, the ‘Nightglow’ which brought down the curtain on the Irish Hot Air Balloon Championships, saw the site put to fantastic use, drawing thousands onto the South Quay (see News 24 and 25 for photo coverage.
Few city centres anywhere in Europe could accommodate such a wonderful spectacle, so well done to Joe Daly and his fellow balloonists for adding such colour and excitement to the skies of Waterford and South Kilkenny last week.
Creating walkways and, as suggested by local politicians last week, showcasing some of Spraoi’s bigger and more spectacular creations on the site, would surely represent a step in the right direction. It could, if so required, be used as a car park, although most would agree that there are more than enough vehicles parked on our Quayside as things stand.
Spraoi utilise the waterside brilliantly for its annual fireworks display, and both Quays proved their worth during the unforgettable Tall Ships Festivals of 2005 and 2011.
City and County Council CEO Michael Walsh may have been referring only to the Green Route works when he described the project as one which would “return The Quay” to the people of Waterford, but positively exploiting the riverside ought to form part of a wider strategy.
Great work has been done on the continent to re-invigorate such riverside areas, be it in Nantes where a leisure and exhibition area has been created, or in Louvain, Belgium, where the former Stella Artois gain silos are to be converted into a luxury hotel.
Perhaps we have an over-ambitious vision for the North Wharf, but there’s no harm in thinking big about the site’s future use.
In the meantime, a general tidying of the area, and making it more presentable for locals and visitors alike is hardly too much to ask for.