Derry riverfront to be transformed in multi-million pound makeover to put city on map as vibrant European tourist destination

Derry’s riverfront looks set to be completely transformed under a mooted multi-million pound investment as part of the City Deal.

Friday, 13th November 2020, 5:42 pm

Derry City & Strabane District Council, which is leading the project, intends developing a brand new urban waterfront that will place Derry firmly on the map as a vibrant European tourist destination.

Parts of the Foyle Embankment will be replaced with tree-lined avenues and plazas that will be used to host many of the major public events for which the city is famed.

The plan, according to DC&SDC, is to reconnect the city centre with the Foyle.

Fresh details of the ‘Central Riverfront’ project have been released to the ‘Journal’ under Freedom of Information legislation. While a Strategic Outline Case is still being advanced to allow Heads of Terms to be signed off, if the massive development comes to fruition it’s likely to deliver a riverscape for the 21st century.

The £65m investment will be split into two parts: £45m for the regeneration of Foyle Street, the riverfront and Queen’s Quay; and £20m between the Derry North Atlantic (DNA) maritime museum in Ebrington and the Walled City economic project on the cityside.

“The Central Riverfront is an integrated public/private sector development proposition that will create a world class, city centre waterfront and act as the stimulus and the setting for innovation and investment in the heart of the city.

“Alongside the historic Walled City, the new revitalised and rejuvenated contemporary riverfront will create a unique proposition for investors and visitors, while enhancing the quality of life for all who live in the city and region. The vision for the Central Riverfront is of a dynamic and re-invigorated urban waterfront that will position the City as a vibrant European destination with heavily engineered roads replaced with tree-lined avenues and roundabouts alongside pedestrian friendly civic squares.

“The Riverfront will become a lively and vibrant place to be, for every day activity to special events for which the city is internationally renowned,” according to a sketch of the project compiled by DC&SDC.

The overall proposal will complement the recent decision by the Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to look at reducing the A2 at the Foyle Embankment to a single lane in order to expand pedestrian and cycling space.

“The potential reduction of the dual carriageway to single lane vehicular traffic will allow the significant extension of pedestrian walkways and cycling routes, an infrastructural shift which is in line with the most current Central Government thinking to ensure that our cities are redesigned to thrive and be functionally resilient in a post Covid environment,” the council states.

Under the vision the riverfront is seen as playing a key role in ‘connecting all elements of the city centre, old and new whilst also reinforcing the positive relationship between the city and both sides of the river with the new riverfront becoming a thriving extension to the existing City Centre and its historic walls’.

The aim is to unlock the development potential of the quayside which has been under-utilised as a result of it being cut off from the city centre by a busy traffic route. The Council sees it as ‘a unique opportunity for the city, its people and the region to energise the economic, social and physical regeneration of Derry Londonderry.’

“The City Deal investment in the Central Riverfront project of £45m will enable the complete reconstruction of Queen’s Quay and remodelling of Harbour Square and Foyle Embankment. This has the potential to unlock private sector development opportunities along Queen’s Quay, Strand Road, Foyle Street and the Walled City as well as opening up the opportunity for civic/commercial office development on Foyle Street Car Park which along with DNA at Ebrington and the Walled City Project will act as catalyst for the regeneration of the wider city centre,” the project documents state.

This major reimagination of the quays will allow scope for the expansion of Magee as far as the river.

“The City Deal Central Riverfront project will also potentially release an axis of investment along the riverfront that also includes the new School of Medicine and proposed Innovation Centres of Excellence - Personalised Medicine Centre of Excellence (T-HRIVE), Cognitive Analytics Research Laboratory (CARL) and Centre for Industry Digitalisation, Robotics and Automation (CIDRA).

“It will facilitate the potential expansion of the university campus to the riverfront as well as innovative proposals at Fort George which will all be subject to business case approvals and wider affordability considerations.

“When combined with wider regeneration projects, it will have a cumulative positive effect on the city centre by boosting footfall, increasing visitor dwell time and tourism expenditure and stimulating further private sector investment as well as playing a crucial role in aiding economic recovery,” council officers state.

If and when approved it will change the way the city looks, feels and operates.

The council forecasts: “Increased economic activity in the city centre, stimulated by an uplift in footfall, visitor numbers and dwell time; a potential increase in the amount of new businesses establishing themselves in the area, supported by improved overall business activity; significantly improved physical through the removal of unsightly infrastructure and the introduction of high-quality design and lighting; enhanced pedestrian and cycling environment, as well as public transport facilities, thus increasing a modal shift to more sustainable forms of transportation; and creating a more connected city.”

The development will be subject to the approval of further business cases which will include more detailed assessments from a value for money perspective.