Martin McGuinness welcomed Arlene Foster to the Gasyard on Thursday to announce a massive £45m investment, across five ‘urban villages’ including the Bogside and Fountain.
The investment will help transform the area for generations to come with a revamp of the Meenan Square Shops one of the first priorities.
The Executive Ministers were at the Gasyard Centre for the launch of the ‘Urban Villages Strategic Frameworks,’ which is designed to improve good relations and develop areas which have suffered economic and social challenges.
The Derry ‘Urban Village’ straddles the Fountain and the Bogside.
Mr. McGuinness said the programme, which grew out of the ‘Together: Building a United Community Strategy’ of 2013, has already made substantial progress and that residents of the Bogside will soon see more at the Meenan shops on the Lecky Road.
“With other government partners we intend to take forward the regeneration of the Meenan Square shops complex and further public realm improvements,” he said.
The deputy First Minister hailed community leaders in the Bogside and Fountain who have persisted in improving their areas despite sometimes negative publicity.
“Last month the Gasyard Wall Féile was supported in delivering an image, fire and sculpture show on its closing night. It attracted a family audience in excess of 2,000 people and brought much needed positive publicity and more importantly community spirit when the area was the focus of the media for all the wrong reasons.
“Another exciting project is the Museum of Free Derry, which will be ready before Christmas but which will be officially opened in January of next year.
“So the partnership between them and the Siege Museum, in working together to deliver an ‘Urban Village’ outreach project, I view as particularly important. Hugely significant to see those two very important museums working together and not just inspiring the local community but being a major attractor for tourists to this area.”
Mrs Foster said she was delighted to be back in the Bogside for her first visit to the Gasyard to launch the strategy.
“I am pleased to be here today because this is one of our key strategic plans for these five areas, ‘Urban Villages’ as we are calling them. We’re going to tackle physical dereliction. We’re going to try to build up the community and give them a sense of civic pride.”
She said: “We can really make a difference at local level..especially here in the Bogside, Fountain and Bishop Street areas.”
The Executive is delivering a £2.6million capital programme across five areas this year and has earmarked £45 million over the Programme for Government period.
Mr McGuinness said: “The old approach of Government departments working in isolation is a thing of the past. “In the Bogside, Fountain and Bishop Street, this means aligning approaches to health and wellbeing and supporting young people, and delivering capital investment to tackle dereliction and vacancy, including working with other government partners to take forward the regeneration of the Meenan Shops complex and further public realm improvements.”