Good news, it’s a thriving city that is prioritising the health and wellbeing of the citizen in decision-making and has addressed the housing crisis by purposefully tackling vacant and derelict properties.
It turns out having a happy and healthy population is good for business and the success of the city!
It’s January, 2025, and walking down Barrack Street is a stroll that lifts the spirits and banishes the previous 30 year memory of dereliction that blighted the street.
Barracka now brings to mind the bohemian neighbourhoods of Seville. The former Nancy Spain’s pub and adjacent properties were sadly allowed to deteriorate beyond repair, but the site has been transformed with new houses and apartments filled with families and individuals embracing city living.
Except for car access for the residents, the whole street has been pedestrianised and it is so pleasing to see people sit on the brightly coloured street furniture reading a paper or sipping a coffee.
The opening of a new branch of Bandon Road’s Con’s Fruit and Veg shop, along with the bustling restaurants and cafés, has helped transform the village feel of the street. You could almost think you had been transported to Clonakilty!
Murphy’s coal merchants has transitioned from selling peat briquettes to selling pints and is now a beautifully designed and sheltered beer garden. With regular gigs, performances and outdoor cinema events scheduled at Elizabeth Fort throughout the year, BarBarella and Murphy’s Merchants are the party spots to be at these days.
French’s Quay is no longer blighted by a building site and the whole area has been complemented by the creation of the new Lee Park.
In a fit of goodwill, the owner of the Grand Parade Car Park gifted the prime riverside car park to the people of Cork. The City Council combined it with the adjacent derelict site at South Main street to create a new family-friendly park.
Diarmuid Gavin worked his gardening magic incorporating a fantastic inclusive playground. The inspired addition of a small viewing platform over the River Lee has been inadvertently designed to allow smallies safely lob small stones into the flowing river, while their parents can enjoy 20 minutes of peace and a coffee from the perfectly positioned café pod.
While their child is occupied slowly damming the river, they are free to contemplate the beautiful riverscape stretching from St Finbarr’s Cathedral in the distance, down to the shiny, newly-completed Event Centre and to the left the new hotel The Revenue on Sullivan’s Quay with its appealing rooftop garden (I heard they have their own beehives). Its central courtyard garden is open to the public - that new condition of planning that previous public buildings have to retain some access to the public is working well for the residents of Cove Street, Douglas Street and Mary Street - it’s nice to have access to a green space within a five-minute walk of your house.
Thanks to the Automatic Number Plate Recognition camera system installed by Cork City Council, breaches of the so-called Panna Ban are very rare and Patrick Street is clear of private cars. Drivers realise the €150 fine is not worth the convenience of pulling up outside Burger King.
The controversial robot trees that clogged up Grand Parade and Patrick Street have been re-purposed into public seating. All the better to admire the 150 new trees that have been planted on Grand Parade and Patrick Street in an effort to introduce more biodiversity and nature into the city centre, de-pave the public realm, improve air quality and make the city a more pleasant place to hang out.
The regeneration of North Main Street as a thriving city centre community continues apace. Buildings that once epitomised dereliction in Cork city have been transformed.
The conversion of the four derelict buildings at 62-65 North Main Street into a mix of private and public apartments, a co-working hub, a training centre and offices of local social enterprises is a welcome boon for the street.
The 49 student apartments that replaced the eyesore that was the former Munster Furniture site means the street is busy with people day and night.
Independent retailers striving to revive the area for years are delighted with the efforts of the last years that has halted the decay of the area and restored the street to a vibrant, diverse, characterful neighbourhood.
Another major development in Cork is the recent commencement of construction of the Little Island Tidal Barrier.
The hastening disintegration and collapse of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica has reconfigured climate mitigation models worldwide. Sea level rise not expected to happen for 50 years is more likely to happen sooner.
With the recent reform of the Arterial Drainage Act of 1945, reconfiguration of the responsibilities of the Office of Public Works and the transfer of the river catchment programme to the Environmental Protection Agency, the arguments for proceeding with the ‘Walls’ flood protection scheme were weakened and the advantages of protecting more of the city, including the soon to be redeveloped north and south docklands, for a longer time frame won out.