The revamp of Derry’s City Centre is gathering pace as the City of Culture year draws to close.
The work carried out to spruce up many of the city’s buildings and streets has ranged from purely cosmetic facade revamps and lighting installations, to large scale restoration projects and the ongoing post war reconstruction of former British Army bases at Ebrington and Fort George.
From new pavements at Duke Street to transformative public realm works at Waterloo Place and the restoration of the Guildhall to the creation of a city centre park and a concert venue, it’s a brave new city - at least aesthetically.
All stakeholders are included in the partnership - Derry City Council, Planning Service, Road Service, the various government departments, the Walled City Partnership, Chamber of Commerce, private enterprise, city centre traders, the City Centre Initiative and many others. The schemes include the Townscape Heritage Initiative, ReStore, Walled City Lighting Strategy, large scale public realm schemes - such as in Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place - urban development grants, the DOE Dereliction Improvement Scheme, the Built Heritage Programme, Environmental Improvements scheme and others.
One of the latest projects underway is a Townscape Heritage Initiative £0.5m restoration job on the property which was home to Baldies Barbers at Castle Street for 20 years.
Brian Gallagher, of Baldies has moved to a building three doors down which has only recently been revamped under the DSD ReStore shopfront enhancement scheme administered by the City Centre Initiative - which includes the removal of unwelcoming shutters from business facades. Although “sad to leave” the home of his business for the 10 month project, Brian says the work over the past number of months is transforming Castle Street and the entire city centre. “The town is really coming back to life following the dark years of the Troubles. It’s a very inviting place now and projects like this have played a big part. Years ago the town was in lock down after 6pm, now all the shutters have gone and it is much more welcoming because of the work done put the shutters inside.”
ReStore schemes undertaken by the City Centre Initiative and supported by the DSD over recent years include interventions at properties in the following streets: Union Hall Place, Bank Place, Spencer Road, Duke Street, William Street and Castle Street. The Walled City Townscape Heritage Initiative has targeted properties within the historic city conservation area at Shipquay Place, Foyle Street, Waterloo Place, Waterloo Street and Castle Street. The former Baldies Barbers building will be the 26th property to benefit, the most notable being the Former Northern Counties Hotel in Waterloo Place and more recently the former Irvines’ Printing Works building.