'We’re not London or New York, we’re Cork city and we’re proud of it': Locals share their views on recent changes to the city centre

'We’re not London or New York, we’re Cork city and we’re proud of it': Locals share their views on recent changes to the city centre
Prince's Street in Cork city has been pedestrianised to encourage alfresco eating as part of restaurants reopening after their closure due to Covid-19. Picture: Andy Gibson

CORK city centre has seen a number of changes since emerging from lockdown.

Businesses that have reopened are adapting to new health and safety measures but for some, it has not been financially viable to reopen. 

Others are finding new ways to trade, such as on Prince's Street, which on Monday became the home of the city’s first eat-on-the-street experience. 

Since then, Leesiders have been flocking to the street to enjoy the atmosphere, along with a pint or two and a substantial meal. 

Caroline Street is also set to become pedestrianised with no traffic between 11am and 5pm. 

Earlier this week, Cork Chamber launched a new survey asking people what else people would like to see developed or expanded. 

The online survey is part of the recently launched Sustainable Cork Programme by Cork Chamber.

President of Cork Chamber Paula Cogan said they are looking forward to hearing the views from across the city and county on the future vision for Cork.

"The next five, ten and 30 years are pivotal for how we grow and develop as a region. 

"There are many challenges, but there are also many opportunities and it's important that we focus on the changes that need to be made, while also recognising the benefits that these changes can bring to our daily lives, whether living, working or studying in Cork," she added.

The survey contains eight questions and the Chamber wants to know people's thoughts on what Cork could look like in the future.

"We all want a resilient, sustainable Cork region across the three pillars of sustainability, economic, social and environmental and it is up to us all to create that vision and move in that direction with purpose.

"A clear vision can frame that ambition and drive that momentum," she continued. 

Ms Cogan pointed out that 2020 was a year like no other.

"We are at a time of change. A crossroads. And as we navigate the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that we emerge stronger. 

"As a society, the horizon holds several challenges across climate change, Brexit and Covid-19, and we must face these challenges head on,” she said.

"Through the Sustainable Cork Programme, Cork Chamber frames the recovery through the powerful lens of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

"Initiated in May of this year, and at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the programme is designed to uncover a vision for business and communities supported by a sustainable and resilient Cork region," Ms Cogan added.

The survey is available on corkchamber.ie until 5pm on Friday July 10.

In light of the new survey, we took to the streets to find out what people think about the new on-street dining, what they would like to see as a focus in terms of development for the city and what differentiates Cork as a city. 

Overall, there was a high level of satisfaction regarding the reimaged street use, with people reporting their enjoyment of on-street dining. 

Improved public transport, an expanded retail offering and more outdoor dining were just a few of the things Cork people said they would like to see developed in the city centre. 

The pace of the city, its character and its people were some of the factors people cited in differentiating Cork from other cities. 

Here is what people had to say: 

Kathleen Foley.Picture Denis Minihane.
Kathleen Foley.Picture Denis Minihane.

Kathleen Foley from Ballyvolane said she is delighted Cork is reimagining street use to facilitate an eat-on-the-street experience. 

"I think it’s a very good idea and I think Patrick Street could do with it – especially with all the empty buildings now."

Kathleen said she would like to see more restaurants and bars opening up in the city centre as she believes the demand may not be there to expand Cork’s retail offering. 

"Young people are in a different time. They tend to go shopping online."

For Kathleen what differentiates Cork from other cities is the people. 

"Ah sure we’re all grand. We’re all lovely people here. 

"It’s big enough for a city but small enough to kind of make it a big village. 

"We’re not London or we’re not New York or anything – we’re our little Cork city and we’re very proud of it."

Denis Dwyer.Picture Denis Minihane.
Denis Dwyer.Picture Denis Minihane.

Denis Dwyer, who hails from Skibbereen, was enjoying some al fresco dining on Prince’s Street earlier this week. 

"I think it’s Cork fighting back and businesses trying to get their customers back in. 

"It’s a very good idea and badly needed."

Speaking about what he would like to see as a focus for Cork development in the near future, Denis said the long-delayed Event Centre project needs to be a priority. 

"For me the priority should be the Event Centre, getting that finished once and for all. 

"It’s been hanging around for the last three or four years and you have a lot of young people in the south who have to travel to Dublin for most of the big concerts. 

"I think if that centre got finished it would be a great boost to Cork and Munster and the South of Ireland."

Leah Walsh.Picture Denis Minihane.
Leah Walsh.Picture Denis Minihane.

Leah Walsh from Carrigaline is an Architecture student at UCC. 

She was in the city centre earlier this week with her mother, Judy and was admiring the on-street dining on Prince’s Street. 

"It’s great to see it. You’d always see it in other countries so it’s lovely to see it in Ireland now too. 

"It’s nice to be able to eat outdoors – except for when it rains," she laughed. 

For Leah, developing connected public transport networks and cycleways is pivotal for how Cork develops as a city. "It’s really really difficult to cycle here," she said. 

"I also think it would be nice if we had more of a connection to the river," Leah added. 

Speaking about what makes Cork special as a city, she said it has a unique charm. 

"It feels big but also local at the same time. It sounds cliché but I think it has a nice character."

Judy Walsh.Picture Denis Minihane.
Judy Walsh.Picture Denis Minihane.

Judy Walsh was also singing the praises of on-street dining in Cork. 

"I think it’s great. The city needs it. It really really needs it. 

"They’ll have to get some kind of an awning or something though because it’s so weather dependent but it’s a great initiative," she said. 

Speaking about what she would like to see actioned in Cork city in the near future Judy said she would like to see progress on flood defences and more money invested into the city centre to "get people back into the city centre and out of shopping centres." 

Judy also cited improved public transport networks as a key priority for Cork. 

"Now that we have three politicians from Cork South Central on board they might have some impact," she said. 

Judy, who lived in Dublin for many years, said Cork has an indescribable quality which differentiates it from other cities. 

"Only Cork people could understand Cork," she laughed. "Cork is very unique."

Becky Cambridge.Picture Denis Minihane.
Becky Cambridge.Picture Denis Minihane.

Becky Cambridge from The Glen gave the thumbs up to on-street dining. 

"I actually really like it. Other European cities have done it so it’s great to see Cork doing it as well. 

"It would be good to see some solution for it [outdoor dining] when it’s raining though," she said.

In the future, Becky said she would like to see an increased retail offering in the city centre. 

"I’d like to see more shops opening up in Cork – some American brands that they have in Dublin would be great to have here," she said. 

"After the Covid-19 a lot of shops are closing down so it would be nice to have more opening in Cork to provide more employment," Becky continued. 

Becky said she favours the pace of life in Cork over the hustle and bustle of the capital. 

"It’s not as packed as Dublin – there’s a nice pace here."

Christine Rodgers.Picture Denis Minihane.
Christine Rodgers.Picture Denis Minihane.

Christine Rodgers also from The Glen said the on-street dining is a welcome addition to the city centre, weather permitting. 

"It’s lovely for sunny days. Just to be able to sit and enjoy the sun while you’re eating is nice," she said. 

Christine said she would like to see improvements to the public transport network developed in Cork in the future. 

For Christine, Cork city’s finest asset is its people. 

"I think it’s just how people react around one another. It’s a very welcoming city. 

"You can pass anyone on the street and say 'hi, how are you?' and you wouldn’t even know them. 

"It’s nice, especially for people who are not from here. 

"I went up to Dublin and nobody will talk to you but you come into Cork and everyone wants a chat."

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