For more than three decades, Derry’s Inner City Trust has successfully spearheaded a series of innovative projects aimed at improving the physical, economic and social fabric of the city centre.
Today, as it forges ahead with a multi-million pound programme of renewal and regeneration to revitalise the city centre, it is widely recognised as one of the city’s leading development agencies.
Across the River Foyle, its sister organisation, the Waterside Development Trust, has also been delivering on a systematic programme of renewal and regeneration to tackle social and economic deprivation and break down sectarian divisions.
Pat Walsh, founding member and current chairman of the Waterside Development Trust, explains: “The Inner City Trust and Waterside Development Trust share a similar ethos and both have a proven track record of tackling problems associated with social and economic deprivation while working to promote better community relations.”
In 2006, the two formed a strategic partnership to maximise the potential of both organisations and to build on their respective strengths.
Indeed, it is anticipated that the increased level of co-operation and synergy created between them will lead to an eventual merger.
Already the collaborative partnership between the two is paying a handsome dividend in terms of improved development.
The first joint project completed was the Shared Future Centre on the site of the former Clondermot High School.
Its success is symbolic of a growing confidence and improved community relations in the area.
The Waterside Development Trust and the Inner City Trust pooled their resources to provide the majority of the development costs with the balance provided by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
The Shared Future Centre - at the interface between Irish Street and Top of the Hill - is a hub of activity, having successfully combined the key components of employment, job creation, training and cross-community collaboration to transform an area blighted by sectarian tension for generations.
The three storey building is fully occupied with a diverse range of tenants: Derry City Council’s Good Relations and Sports Development Departments, Foyle Down’s Syndrome Trust, Waterside Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership and Customised Training Services.
Dr James Mehaffey, retired Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and Chairman of the Inner City Trust, says the Shared Future Centre is much more than just a building.
“It is a shared space, bringing people together, narrowing the traditional divides,” he says.
“It is my hope that, like the Peace Bridge, the Shared Future Centre will become a unifying force, a physical structure that yields social and economic benefits.”