Plans are underway to revitalise Cork city centre and return it to its vibrant glory days. Photo: Michelle Donovan

City centre needs to be a ‘wonderland’

A Cork city architect has said it is crucial to make the city centre beautiful again if we want to revitalise it.

Speaking yesterday at a Sustainable Cork Programme (SCP) webinar, Senior Architect at Capital Projects Implementation Unit CPIU, Cork County Council, Giulia Vallone, said it breaks her heart every time she sees a shopfront being changed in the city.

She said: “We have such a beautiful heritage infrastructure in Cork city. Let’s concentrate on the heritage of those buildings and stop affecting them negatively because they are really the core of what we can do to attract people back to the city.

“At Christmas, the town centre was full, and guess why? Because with the Christmas lights we transform spaces into a wonderland and that’s what we need.

“We need to make the city centre such a beautiful place that people want to go back there.”

Also speaking at the event was Managing Director of KPMG Future Analytics Dr William Hynes.

Both Dr Hynes and Ms Vallone agreed a focus on data-informed design will be crucial in revitalising Cork city centre.

Dr Hynes, who is a chartered town planner, surveyor and urban and regional economist, said place-making and place-shaping must be for all of a given community and not aimed at a particular sector.

He said: “What you’re trying to create by successful making and shaping are places that are active and bring an improved quality of life. We want to attract and retain our talent, not only our workforce talent, but talent in the communities, talented leaders, activists, and particularly the talented youth.

“We want to look at the wider range of investment priorities in the areas within housing, transport, entertainment and recreation.

“This will allow economic competitiveness to really stand out. Very often, a result of this is that the urban services and the tax base and the revenues grow, and a whole lift happens right across that urban centre, because of the investment and the attractiveness of the place.”

The SCP webinar series is hosted by Cork Chamber and is designed to set a vision for a more sustainable and resilient Cork, empowered by a thriving business community.

The event is linked to the Sustainable Development Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities. Facilitating yesterday’s webinar was Shane Clarke, CEO at Nano Nagle Place and Director of Operations at The VQ.

He said: “We have got such a deep and storied heritage here. I think design has to be to the forefront, and it has to be informed by data and evidence and it has to be transparent. We need to talk and talk and argue and disagree but do it around those things.”