Hopes for investment boost with city centre facelift project

February 7, 2012

By Christine Keighery

Newry’s Hill Street and Monaghan Street are set to undergo major facelifts in coming weeks as part of a £10 million improvement plan which will see cosmetic and infrastructural transformations take place over the next 2 years, throughout Newry and Mourne.

Work on the rejuvenation of Hill Street and Monaghan Street, which could begin within the next fortnight, is set to turn the streets into “striking and modern city centre high streets”, according to Noel Mathers of Edmond Shipway Construction Consultants, the company hired by Newry and Mourne District Council to oversee the ambitious project.

The works will comprise under-grounding of overhead services, and the installation of new kerbing, paving, granite street furniture , tree planting and additional cycling facilities. New decorative street lighting is also proposed as part of the scheme.  The lighting in particular, says Mr Mathers, will be the most visible aspect of change as Newry becomes one of the first cities in Ireland to install the new iGuzzini lighting system. This, he says, “will really brighten the area and their attractive, modern shape make them pleasant to look at, both on and off.”

Margaret Square and Marcus Square will undergo some of the biggest changes.  Noel explains; “These will become real event spaces.  They will be lit up exceptionally well at night and the footpaths and road will be lowered to the same level to make accommodating concerts and events easier.”

These exciting changes for the Hill Street area are particularly welcome, as it is hoped they will attract more retail and business investment into the declining precinct, where vacant units have become an increasingly common sight.

The Examiner spoke to members of the community who expressed their concern at the downturn of the once bustling city centre.  One Newry resident, who has been shopping on Hill Street for over forty years, told us that she now visits the area mainly for her banking needs and the Credit Union facility.   Others said that, while they remain loyal to some of the stalwart businesses and cafes in Hill Street, there is a definite need for more business and retail on the street, with one shopper describing the eyesore of the empty units as “somewhat desolate”.

Newry Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, Orla Jackson, has confirmed the district needs further sustained development saying,

“We are keen to ensure that this is just the start of a bigger process and believe that Newry is deserving of greater investment in its city centre and surrounding areas as per the proposals in the Newry City Masterplan. “

Speaking to The Examiner, Ms Jackson said she remained hopeful that the plans would “push development and attract long-term investment to Newry.” She added that while the Chamber of Commerce fully backed the Masterplan launched by Minister McCausland last year, it was in need of government investment in its’ recommendations and that “positive investment will bring about investment in retail and business.”

Miss Jackson told us she recognises the current economic climate is challenging but the key message for Newry is a positive one,  that the future investment in development throughout Newry and Mourne will generate business, not only to the surrounding areas, but will rejuvenate the business and retail sector in its’ main streets.