Kathriona Devereux: Some ambitious goals for Cork city in 2021

In her weekly column Kathriona Devereux outlines some goals for Cork city this year - like more parklets
Kathriona Devereux: Some ambitious goals for Cork city in 2021

MORE PLEASE! The Parklet on Douglas Street in Cork city is a welcome addition to our urban landscape, says Kathriona Devereux

LOWER your expectations. That was my motto for most of 2020 and I’m thinking of sticking with it for 2021.

As we kick off the New Year and the inevitable chat of resolutions, you won’t hear me encouragingly saying “Fulfil your potential”, or “Reach for the stars”, or even “Be your best”.

Now is not the time to be burdening ourselves with the traditional targets of self-improvement; making resolutions about career promotion, weight loss, improved fitness or exciting love lives. Simply having a job, a place to live and not being sick are the ultimate life goals for the moment.

If I find myself looking forward to a socially distanced walk around the block with a friend for a chat, I remind myself that at any moment she could cancel because of a temperature-spiking smallie. Or if I start fantasising about a weekend away when “Covid is over”, I tell myself that foolish optimism is likely to end in disappointment.

Better to lower my expectations than have them dashed.

2021 will hopefully be a slightly less tumultuous outing than 2020 and the administration of the first vaccinations does bring hope, but I’m keeping my personal New Year resolutions modest this year.

Last year my resolution was to stop using my phone in bed. I cut out the mindless scrolling and following the doomsday news cycle and I upped my reading of actual, real life books. Thirty minutes of reading a book before bed rather than Facebook posts of people I haven’t seen since primary school was a good life tweak.

Personally, for 2021, I’m going to stick with humble goals like running a 10k, but I’ve got a few ambitious goals in mind for Cork city in the year ahead. Here are a few of my #CorkGoals2021

The ‘People’s Parklet’ on Douglas Street - picture was taken pre-Covid, pre-social distancing.  Picture: Clare Keogh
The ‘People’s Parklet’ on Douglas Street - picture was taken pre-Covid, pre-social distancing.  Picture: Clare Keogh

More Parklets — Who would have thought a few planks of wood, benches and plant holders would be so appealing? But the parklet at the end of Douglas Street outside the Cork Flower Studio is a welcome oasis on a busy street.

Another one is sprouting outside the Imperial Hotel on South Mall Street and I hope many more will spring up reclaiming the streets for people.

If you know of a suitable corner of Cork that would benefit from one, then why not apply to partner with Cork City Council to deliver a parklet on your street?

More Paint — One of the most pleasing views of Cork is from South Main Street Bridge looking down the river at Sullivan’s Quay towards the crisp, white riverside CIT building, Nano Nagle footbridge, the boardwalk, the deep blue of Electric and on to Parliament Bridge and Holy Trinity Church.

It’s a beautiful scene — if you can frame out the grey dilapidated backs of buildings overlooking the derelict site that was Sir Henry’s nightclub.

A colourful paint job on those buildings would completely transform the vista as would a pop up park on that site.

The council runs an annual funding scheme for residents and businesses to invest in building façade upgrades that improve the character of their areas. Funding the painting of the rear of buildings at prime riverside locations would brighten the city measurably.

The Malaysian city of Melaka is a wonderful example of how paint and street art can transform riverside buildings into attractive sights. I’d love to see some of the cheerful paint schemes of places like Eyeries in West Cork on Shandon or South Parish streets.

Fewer vacant sites — My Christmas spin on the Big Wheel on Grand Parade provided an annual check-up on the city centre’s vacant sites. Another Christmas, another year, the enormous site formerly occupied by the Revenue offices on Sullivan’s Quay lies idle.

I know I’m supposed to be oohing and aahing at views of St Finbarr’s Cathedral but the bird’s eye view from the Big Wheel looking down on the derelict sites of the Grand Parade Hotel, Event Centre and former Sir Henry’s site is not pretty.

Can we bring in some rule that if developers are not going to develop a city centre site immediately, that they have to make it a pop up park or playground until construction begins? Or if City Council owns a site they make it a temporary city centre park until a long term plan is devised?

Then Corkonians get the benefit of a temporary amenity rather than an ongoing eyesore.

These are just small suggestions that feed into the wider picture of a thriving city centre.

Other schemes to improve the city centre include the Living City initiative, which is a tax incentive for the refurbishment of historic buildings in the city to tackle vacancy and dereliction which, along with the Vacant Upper Floor Refurbishment Supports, aims to increase housing supply. The uptake of these schemes has been low so they need refinement to deliver the proper urban renewal that is required for a vibrant city centre.

Post-pandemic 

Cork city centre will require a radical rethink to bring back commercial tenants, attract residents and restore and save historical buildings and architectural heritage. Despite all the uncertainty that 2021 holds, we shouldn’t lower or manage our expectations when it comes to creating an attractive, liveable city. We should raise our expectations and ambitions.

Cork could be on the precipice of great things in the coming decade if the people and the powers-that-be in City Hall work together to renew and protect the city centre.

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