New life for Derry’s vacant buildings

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A scheme is being launched in Derry aiming to breathe new life into the city’s empty shops and office buildings.

The north’s Social Development Minister Nelson McCausland has announced his department is to fund the Vacant Spaces Project, developed in partnership with Ilex, that aims to match Derry’s empty commercial space with new tenants.

“The Vacant Spaces project will try to make use of vacant buildings in key locations in a way that can add value to the city centre and stimulate local businesses and employment,” the Minister said.

A Vacant Spaces project officer - employed by the City Centre initiative (CCI) and funded with £16,000 from the Department of Social Development until March 2014 - will market the scheme, develop a wider action plan and match potential tenants with unoccupied space.

CCI City Centre Manager Jim Roddy said the long term goal is to create “a more vibrant and enhanced city centre economy.”

“The current levels of vacancy in the city centre have a detrimental effect not only on the physical image of the street, but also for the economic success of the existing businesses.

“We are delighted to now have a dedicated vacant spaces project officer, who is working alongside all the key stakeholders in the City to develop a strategy to bring these spaces back into use.”

He said intially the project would provide “opportunities for community groups, start-up businesses and artists.”

Niall McGurk, business manager at the city’s urban regeneration company Ilex said the new post “ is fully aligned with the city’s One Plan, focusing on the Quality Spaces, Places and Neighbourhoods catalyst programme.”

In it’s initial phase the project will focus on will focus on premises that are in a good state of repair and readily usable.

It is understood the officer will further explore possible sources of funding to enable the refurbishment of buildings requiring internal repairs.