By Conor Kane
Ireland’s oldest city is to get a €10m facelift to make it more “people-centred” and to create world-class public spaces at its heart.
A major urban renewal project, described as a “game-changer” which will bear comparison with any European city, was approved for Waterford on Thursday night by members of the city and county council and work is expected to begin in the coming months on the three-year revamp.
Arundel Square and the Apple Market areas of the city centre will become key public spaces. Public transport will be centred on Arundel Square and the historic Apple Market as they are to be transformed with a glass and a mirrored stainless steel roof covering daytime market and night-time entertainment uses.
There will also be smaller plaza spaces created at St Francis Place, Lady Lane and John Street - which could be invaluable during some of Waterford’s international festivals. Colbeck St and John St will be designated gateways to the city centre.
The council said high-quality paving will use “a consistent palette of Irish limestone and light-coloured Spanish granite”, while kerbs and clutter will be addressed to improve access for people with disabilities.
A smartly-designed lighting scheme will further enhance the attractiveness and sense of safety of the streets.
Pedestrians will be given increased primacy and vehicular traffic reduced within the core city centre, with only strictly necessary journeys traversing the area.
The needs of residents, businesses, public transport providers and the emergency services have all been taken into account during the planning phase.
These will be accommodated with enhanced streetscapes, shared surfaces and the provision of turning circles. Agreed delivery times are also to be decided for city centre premises and secure off-street parking will be provided on the periphery of the city centre within easy walking distance of the core area.
Announcing the ambitious project - to be delivered with a combination of council resources, funding from the Government and the European Regional Development Fund - Mayor of Waterford James Tobin commended the multi-disciplinary Waterford-led design team.
“This major investment in the city centre has tremendous potential to further boost Waterford’s attractiveness to visitors and locals alike,” he said.
“It’s vital that Waterford city has a strong core and the more attractive city centre will have positive economic as well as social benefits. We have already seen what’s possible in the tremendous work done in our Viking Triangle, so I am very excited by this next phase that will better connect the different parts of the city centre.”
Council chief-executive Michael Walsh said this round of urban renewal will be “a real game-changer” and its quality “will stand up to comparison with any European city”.
Senior architect with the council, Rupert Maddock, said the “high-quality, accessible public realm” throughout the entire historic city centre will make Waterford “Ireland’s most people-centred city”.