City centre is the ‘beating heart’ of Derry and it needs to be nurtured

Paul John Anderson (third from right, Director Omniplex NI, who welcomed Derry City and Strabane Mayor Michaela Boyle and local business owners to the Strand Road Traders investment event in conjunction with the Holiday Inn Express. Picture Martin McKeown.
Paul John Anderson (third from right, Director Omniplex NI, who welcomed Derry City and Strabane Mayor Michaela Boyle and local business owners to the Strand Road Traders investment event in conjunction with the Holiday Inn Express. Picture Martin McKeown.

Retailers on Derry’s Strand Road - one of the city’s “iconic” retail districts - are being urged to work together to build prosperity, investment and growth right across the city.

This was the message delivered at a get-together hosted by the Strand Road Traders group at which millions of pounds of private sector investment in the area was highlighted.

The Duddy Group, owners of the new Holiday Inn Express, joined Omniplex Holdings NI and other Strand Road traders to celebrate the tens of millions of pounds they have spent on new premises and refurbishments.

They see this financing as an example of private sector confidence in Derry’s city centre.

Paul John Anderson, of Omniplex Holdings NI, and Brendan Duddy, of the Duddy Group, are urging fellow businesses to work together to support their business growth ahead of the delivery of the £100m. Derry-Strabane City Deal.

The investment event took place at the Omniplex Cinema on Strand Road and was attended by representatives from across the political, business and tourism sectors.

Paul John Anderson said that private sector investment from small businesses who receive little or no public sector funding was the “backbone” of the economy.

“We believe that investing in city centre development, at a time when the challenges have never been greater, is critical to build consumer confidence in our tourism and business offering,” he added.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Michaela Boyle, pledged her support for the Strand Road traders and welcomed their coming together to celebrate joint investment and to share business ideas.

“Council is very supportive of the work being done by the local business community across the city and district and recognises that small businesses are the backbone to the local economy, sustaining jobs and providing essential services to the public,” she said.

“Council, through its Strategic Growth Plan, is committed to delivering its objectives for developing Derry’s city centre and bringing about prosperity, investment and growth across the city and district.

“Through our City Deal, we are committed to delivering on major regeneration projects along the riverfront and Queen’s Quay that will, in turn, allow businesses in the Strand Road to reap the benefits from that investment.

“We firmly believe that investment in growth is essential and we must continue to build on the significant progress that has been made so far in realising the objectives of our Strategic Growth Plan and investing in growth without placing unreasonable demands on businesses and homeowners.

“We remain committed to bringing about economic growth and investment that will deliver town centre regeneration which, in turn, has the potential to change the physical and economic landscape within this Council area.”

Brendan Duddy, Chairman of the Duddy Group, believes the ‘City Centre First’ investment and planning strategy of Council is imperative to preserving the “lifeblood of investment”.

But he is clear that business must not abandon responsibility for working together to make the most of the wider support available.

“The city centre is the beating heart of Derry and is an essential draw for tourists and business events,” he said. “That heart needs to be nurtured and supported not just by our political and business representatives but by us all working together.

“Already we have seen synergies with the development of the cinema driving a strong evening culture for entertainment and food. Visitors to the hotels have those facilities within walking distance and our investment in more hotel beds makes the city an even more attractive proposition for short breaks, conferences and conventions.

“This event is an invaluable networking opportunity for those of us on Strand Road and we hope will provide an example to other parts of the city.”