Derelict sites must be tackled and some medieval laneways should be opened up to improve pedestrian access as part of a multi-agency strategy to rejuvenate one of Cork’s most historic streets.
They are among the key recommendations contained in a major planning report on North Main St which was launched last night. The report, a joint initiative of UCC’s Centre for Planning Education and Research and the North Main Street Traders’ Association, formed part of the formal teaching programme of UCC’s master’s in planning and sustainable development which aims to provide students with a “real-world” planning challenge as part of their course.
The students spent several months examining the challenges facing North Main St, and identifying its strengths. Their findings were published last night as the street’s Christmas lights were switched on.
They said the area, which has one of the highest concentrations of family-owned businesses in the city, has experienced a decline in its overall vibrancy and attractiveness as an urban quarter over the last 30 years through a combination of dereliction, retail contraction, concentrations of low- value uses, under investment, poor streetscape, traffic management, pedestrian environment, and poor building conditions.
They said the area has also become increasingly isolated from its surrounding urban context — socially, economically, functionally and physically — and that its importance as part of the commercial heart of the city has declined. They conducted a survey last August which found a ground floor vacancy rate of about 18%, and a drop in employment from 388 people in 2011 to 286.
The study recommends a raft of measures to rejuvenate the area, including: n Improving its pedestrian connections to the city centre and improving the look of the street; n It argues for the opening up of some of the area’s medieval laneways, many of which have been amalgamated into building design or have been privatised with restricted access, to help increase footfall to the street; n Targeting vacant strategic sites on Kyrl’s Quay, the Munster Furniture site and Portney’s Lane site, to entice development and regeneration; n Pursuing the redevelopment of the site left vacant following the closure of the Dunnes Stores outlet; n Tackling dereliction and strategic vacant sites including the Munster Furniture store site; n And the development of a targeted strategy to incentivise the reuse of upper floor spaces.
However, the report said there are a number of positive signs, including renewed activity in St Peter’s/the Vision Centre, combined with the visual enhancements and community spirit developed as part of Reimagine Cork’s work in the area.
“This momentum needs to be supported and underpinned by strategic action and focused effort,” the report said. However, the report also said that many of the negative perceptions of the area are largely misplaced and can be subject to over emphasis.
Honorary secretary of the North Main Street Traders’ Association, Patrick Leader, said that he hopes the various agencies, including the city council, will act on the findings.
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