REINVENTION is the key to the revitalisation of Cork city centre, following its difficulties off the back of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A number of large retailers have pulled out of the St Patrick Street area in recent weeks and months, including Monsoon, Oasis, Clarks, and of course, Debenhams.
The Lord Mayor, Joe Kavanagh, said that while online shopping is on the rise, and even more so during Covid-19, the opportunity is always there for reinvention.
“If you look at different streets in different eras, they’ll always reinvent themselves to suit the market,” he told The Echo.
As it stands currently, both sides of Patrick Street and the eastern side of Daunt’s Square, Opera Lane, and Winthrop Street are designated for retail outlets only. However, the Lord Mayor has said that the offering now does need to be varied somewhat.
“The economy was booming up to last January. That’s only a few short months ago. One incident — the coronavirus global pandemic — changed the whole economic landscape globally, including Cork.
“We have to reinvent ourselves — in so many different ways. From schools to sport, to social interaction to retail, the hospitality sector, every sector has to do things differently, and Patrick Street is no different,” the Lord Mayor said.
“If there’s a problem in an area, you ask the people who live there or who work there because firstly, they’ll tell you what the problem is, and secondly they’ll probably tell you how to solve it.
“You could have all the specialists and experts in the world, but you go to the source of the problem. The traders on Patrick Street probably have the answer,” he said.
Mayor Kavanagh pointed towards the revitalisation of MacCurtain Street over the past 12 to 15 years, from somewhere that had a “huge turnover of businesses” to somewhere that now is the bustling Victorian Quarter with bars and eateries.
He said: “Because of the mobilisation of the businesses on MacCurtain Street, they literally made it a street that people wanted to open businesses on. It has now evolved into an eating and drinking quarter.
“Patrick Street used to be a retail quarter, but now possibly, should we reconsider it being just a retail quarter? Should there be a mix there of retail and hospitality?
“You need an attraction in there — a nice restaurant, possibly a Food Hall in the centre of Patrick Street where people can go, sit down, and have a coffee. You need some reason for people to want to go to Patrick Street,” he said.
“Whatever decision is made, has to be made in conjunction with the existing traders. There’s no point in ramming something down the throats of businesses who have been there for so many years.”