A £1m redevelopment plan has got underway at Derry’s Peace and Reconciliation Centre, St. Columb‘s Park House in the Waterside.
A delighted Centre director, Brian Dougherty is hoping the work will be finished by November and the new-look facilities will be ready for the City of Culture activities in 2013.
The massive redevelopment programme is being funded by the International Fund for Ireland, the Department for Social Development, the Northern Ireland Environmental Association and Derry City Council.
Mr. Dougherty said: “The work will bring the building and the facilities offered into the 21st century.” St. Columb’s Park House is an 18th century manor house and was used for many years as a nurses’ home during the years St. Columb’s Hospital was operational. In 1994 a Reconciliation Trust was set up to establish a centre there for reconciliation and a safe venue.
The programme of activities has expanded considerably since then and more than 15,000 people visit the centre each year of which almost 2,000 are residential users.
Centre staff are operating from temporary buildings in the car park and, thanks to Ilex Regeneration Company, have been able to use facilities at the nearby Ebrington site.
Mr Dougherty said: “We have for example been given the use of the ballroom at the officer’s quarters and we’re able to offer our usual facilities to voluntary and community groups and statutory bodies. The only thing we can’t offer is the dormitory accommodation,” he added. Under the new plans all the dormitory accommodation will be upgraded, some with ensuite facilities
Mr. Dougherty said that since the Reconciliation Trust was established the organisation had established itself as a truly neutral conference and activity facility and proactive body in community relations work.
Groups using the new revamped centre will be able to make use of the facilities of a new cafeteria which will be built in the courtyard.
Centre manager, Sylvia Hunter, who is operating from the Ebrington site, said: “I’m delighted with the facilities Ilex have been able to offer us and we’re able to offer our usual services to the public during the redevelopment work.”
Aideen McGinley, Chief Executive of Ilex said: “St. Columb’s Park House provides an extremely important service to the community and we are happy to support them over the coming months”.
For further information about the work of the centre and to make use of the facilities the telephone number to ring is 71343080.