Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Waterford Crystal site – dereliction not an option

The announcement that the former Waterford Crystal site at Kilbarry is ‘up for sale’ caught few by surprise but is big news nonetheless. It will understandably hurt former crystal workers who got such a raw deal with little redundancy and pension packages. It now remains to be seen what happens with the site and no doubt it will provoke a lot of local debate and discussion. Unfortunately the decision making is out of our hands and we can only hope that the best is made of such a prime site.

The timing of the sale could not be worse. The city already has a lot of unsold and underdeveloped land banks. The property crash and credit crunch is taking its toll and is clearly visible. There is very little development taking place in the city and the omens are not good as the site hits the open market. There is the possibility of developers buying the site for manufacturing purposes and this would be a good option if something solid was to emerge. Heaven knows we need the jobs.

However I think given the strategic importance of the site and its close proximity to W.I.T. a compelling case can be made for the I.T. to purchase the site. There are a number of good reasons for this. (1) They will not get a better site in a better location and in such close proximity to the existing campus at a better price. (2) It is a 36 acre site the front of which is adequately zoned for development – as an opportunity site. (3) It has the potential to provide overflow car parking much needed at the I.T. and would eliminate intrusive parking in neighbouring estates. (4) It would be a good strategic move as the I.T. moves towards University Status.

I have no doubt that the Management of W.I.T. would have an interest in the site. However I doubt they have the financial means to go it alone. It the purchase of the site by W.I.T. is a realistic proposition then Government support will be necessary. It is important that we do not play political games with this issue. We must provide some space for discussions to ensue and I am sure the Management of the Institute are already engaged in this. What we must avoid most is the site becoming dormant or worse derelict. We already have enough derelict sites and buildings in the city. Look at the Jury’s Hotel Site for example. I hope that something positive happens. In the meantime we must do all we can to ensure that the planned Crystal Project for the City Centre proceeds as speedily as possible as this is vital for tourism in the city and the local economy.

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