Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waterford V Kilkenny

I hear a lot about Kilkenny. Why I don't know. But Waterford people are for some reason always comparing our City centre to Kilkenny town centre. Above is a photograph which I took yesterday passing at the end of High Street, Kilkennys' main shopping street. As you can see, it is a narrow street with fairly narrow footpaths, no parking and is choc-a-bloc with cars. There are some people who actually think that this is a superior situation to the centre of Waterford with our wide boulevard type Square, ample paths and pedestrianisation and no polluting moving cars blocking up the whole place.

I can't for the life of me see where they win on any of these counts. Now don't get me wrong, I like Kilkenny and the odd day out shopping there is a nice change (if I can stomach the really really rotten road) - just as Waterford provides a nice change for those from outside, including Kilkenny who come here to shop.

And yes, Kilkenny is good for boutiques. Maybe its just me but it does seem to have more of them. And the castle is beyond compare as an asset in the heart of the town. But we have many assets in Waterford which we need to highlight, appreciate more and make more of. Reginalds Tower is the oldest urban building in the country. The Museum of Treasures (which has just won best Local Authority Museum in the Country - well done to all!) is spectacular and there is nothing like it in Kilkenny or anywhere. John Roberts Square offers a much more pleasant shopping environment. City Square is far superior to Market Cross in my humble opinion. Parking in Waterford is easier than Kilkenny too. We have gorgeous restaurants that can compete with anything in Kilkenny. La Boheme, L'Atmosphere, Bodega, Sabai the list goes on. We have Spraoi. We have Red Kettle and Garter Lane and our magnificent Central Library. They beat us for hotels, I'll give you that. In numbers and newness but I would argue that the Granville Hotel is top notch while the Tower has fantastic potential for expansion into that City centre 4 or 5 star that we so badly need. Are there too many hotel beds in Kilkenny? Time will tell.

So while Kilkenny is different to Waterford I contend that it is in no way superior or that what we offer is inferior. I don't want to shop in streets where I can't manoevre a buggy or get rolled over if I step off the path thank you very much.

Waterford has issues. Kilkenny has issues (saw plenty empty stores up there too). Waterford is motivated and moving in the right direction. Businesses are going to have lean years where it is going to be difficult but you can be sure that goes for shops in every city and town in Ireland. Waterford City centre is precious and needs to be protected and developed. Initiatives need to be taken urgently to increase footfall but everybody who makes up the city centre needs to play their part. The saving of the city is certainly not in the gift of the City Council. But it can help. Together we can ensure - with practical ideas - that Waterford can hang in through the tough times and emerge out the other side better, bigger and with more to offer. But its also down to the other players in the centre; landlords, retailers and in fact local shoppers.

We need larger shops (Enterprise Homecare & DIY site crying out for development/Regina cinema/Jenkins Lane/Exchange St). We need to limit out of town shopping. We need to monitor our neighbouring authorities and defend our city centre against their attempts to capitalise on and undermine it. We need to strengthen our offering in the city centre. We need owners to invest. We need the New Street centre to start. We need Penneys back in. We need common sense applied to rent reviews.

But most of all we need an attitude change. We need to realise that Waterford is a good place to shop and visit with plenty to see and do, places to eat, music to hear, entertainment to be had, places to party. We need to be confident and make things better without knocking the good things that we have. We need to go forward not backward and we need to think strategically. We need to know what we can do - and lets go out and do it.

Finally, we can support our city. Every one of us, by shopping here. Spending whatever we're spending here and keeping ourselves in employment. Eating out here, bringing our visitors around city attractions. Waterford has seen much tougher times than this and survived. I have no doubt that we will do that again. If we are careful and consider how we are using whatever money we have.

I appeal to all the players in the city centre to step up to the plate and put their money where their mouths are. The Landlords, the retailers, the shoppers and the City Council. It's in all our interests to make Waterford work.


Anonymous said...

Well said.

Anonymous said...

While I agree we should promote Waterford we really need to stop comparing it to Kilkenny. Fact is that Kilkenny is very popular as a destination and has its own charm. Constant comparisons to Kilkenny make us look like we have chip on our shoulder.
I also think that Kilkenny should be referred to as a City- in keeping with its medieval past. Just because we are a City we like to refer to it as a town. The whole country recognises it as such even if it isnt based on local government or population- we sound cynical.
Lets concentrate on getting waterford more positive attention and "forget" looking at what the neighbours have

Anonymous said...

It is worrying that many believe Kilkenny would be the ideal location for a greenfield university for the south east. It is more central to the region than Waterford from a location and transport perspective, espec with the new M9 opening. It also has a big population within 30 miles (Carlow, Waterford, Thurles, Clonmel, New Ross, Carrick, Portlaoise). Waterford need to sell itself as the region capital or this will be eroded.