Emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic will see significant opportunities present themselves for local and indigenous businesses and retailers in Cork, according to the Chief Executive of Cork City Council Ann Doherty.
The Council’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO) has been working closely with businesses and representative organisations throughout the pandemic.
In the ‘Reimagining Cork City’ document, City Hall chiefs outlined some of the work undertaken to support economic recovery in the city including a corkcityshopping.com website in conjunction with Cork Business Association (CBA).
Nearly 2,000 applications have been approved for restart grants and over 650 businesses availed of the Business Continuity Voucher Scheme.
Despite the positives, the pandemic has seen the closure of a number of multinational retailers, most notably impacting Patrick’s Street in the city centre.
Ann Doherty said that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there had already been a change in retail on the high street.
“Debenhams was a loss to the city but we all knew that Debenhams was a store that was potentially not going to have a long term future in the city. I’m very mindful that people have lost their jobs but in terms of just talking about the nature of high street,” Ms Doherty said.
She pointed also towards the proposed developments that are due to happen in and around the city centre - some of which had been planned prior to the pandemic.
“There are major plans for most of Patrick's Street that predated the pandemic. If you think about the Queens Old Castle - there is a live planning application, the Savoy has a planning application.
“Also, Penneys has a massive redevelopment plan. So a lot of what was happening around Patrick’s Street predated the pandemic,” she added.
“I think retail has changed completely anyway.
“I think that there is a real opportunity for local and indigenous trade again.
“That opportunity then can be fostered by having a dynamic place,” Ms Doherty said.
Fearghal Reidy, Director of Strategic & Economic Development at Cork City Council said that this ‘Reimagining Cork City’ plan ensures a move towards making a visit to the city centre an experience.
He said that retail, bars and restaurants, and culture are three key components to that becoming a reality.
“We will see immediate actions now, and in terms of the Development Plan we will be looking at different uses for the city centre,” he said.
He also highlighted their want to increase the number of people living in the city centre.
He said that people working there increase the footfall, and those living there increase it further.
Mr Reidy added: “City centres that don’t have people living there die at night time, and we just want to avoid that.”
Questioned on whether facilitating permission for restaurants and bars opening on Patrick’s Street would be considered, Mr Reidy said everything that will make the city centre more vibrant will be looked at.
Currently, the street is designated for retail outlets only at ground floor level, under the Cork City Development Plan 2015-2021, but the new plan is currently out for public consultation.
“We want to be careful that we don’t displace restaurants that are successful on the side streets. There is an issue there that we would like to find the right balance and make sure that businesses that exist can be sustained and we can add to the vibrancy on Patrick’s Street,” he said.