A new state-of-the-art cross-community facility designed to promote reconciliation has been launched at Cityview Park in Derry’s Waterside.
The three-story 15,000 square foot Shared Future Centre is located at the interface between the mainly nationalist Top of the Hill community and the mainly unionist Irish Street community.
It will give access to training services and employment opportunities to both communities as well as engendering physical and economic regeneration in an area of high unemployment.
The Centre first opened its doors in January 2012 and already enjoys 80% occupancy with a diverse range of tenants.
Among those who’ve taken up residency are Derry City Council’s Good Relations and Sports Development Departments, Foyle Down’s Syndrome Trust, Waterside Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership and Customised Training Services.
The Waterside Development Trust and its city-based sister organisation, the Inner City Trust, provided £1 million of funding towards the project. The balance of £602,420 was provided by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI).
Speaking at Friday’s official launch, Dr Adrian Johnston, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, said: “The Fund’s investment is designed to provide the opportunity for people to come together in a shared space which nurtures respect, encourages openness and breaks down physical and mental barriers so that they can move forward with shared purpose and understanding.
“It brings together the key components of employment, job creation and cross-community collaboration. As I understand it, these are three very important ingredients in the peace making process and, in the long term, will ensure sustainability. Only then will we see real and lasting change in the community that will benefit both the current and future generations.”
Also speaking at the official opening was the Right Reverend Dr James Mehaffey, retired Church of Ireland Bishop of Derry and Raphoe and Chairman of the Inner City Trust, who likened the Shared Future Centre to the recently constructed Peace Bridge.
“It is more, much more than just a bridge,” he said. “Like this building, it is shared space, bringing people together, narrowing the divide that has traditionally been Cityside/Waterside, Catholic/Protestant, Us and Them. It is my hope that, like the Peace Bridge, this Centre will become a unifying force, a physical structure that yields social and economic benefits for the local community.”
Pat Walsh, Chairman of the Waterside Development Trust, added: “Ten years ago, Waterside Development Trust opened Glendermott Valley Business Park, which is also located in an interface area.
“At the time, some said that, while they admired our optimism, they didn’t hold much hope for the success of the project. But we had a vision and were prepared to take the risk – in partnership, of course with the local community.
“That risk has paid real dividends and broke new ground in cross community reconciliation.
“ Today this building represents another step in this city’s journey towards that vision.”