The announcement that €5.5 million new tourism attractions in Kilkenny, to develop the city’s ‘spine’ – between Kilkenny Castle and St Canice’s Cathedral.
The revamp aims to extend the ‘public realm experience of the Parade Project’ into High Street and Parliament Street, and will include the use of new materials, footpath widening, and in eventuality, a one-way system.
It has been proposed that a tribute to Kilkenny’s hurlers is also to be put in place in the area where Kieran Street and High Street diverge. It would involve an ash tree being planted on the site, and a ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’-style plaza put in place, with hurlers’ handprints imprinted in cement.
St Mary’s Church and graveyard will be refurbished and developed to museum standard, with an exhibition facility to house heritage and historic collections. County manager Joe Crocket has also revealed that the local authority is in talks with the National Museum of Ireland, with a view to collaborating on future projects and exhibitions.
A Great Garden on the bank of the River Nore is also now set to be tendered for international competition. The scale and location of the garden would make it a unique attraction of international significance.
“The new and fresh component here is the concept of the Kilkenny Great Garden,” said Mayor of Kilkenny Sean O’hArgain.
“The groundbreaking and very innovative 400 trees project initiated by one of my predecessors as Mayor, Malcolm Noonan may have ‘sown the seed’ of these proposals. The greening of Kilkenny and the reopening of our interface with the River Nore has been gathering pace in recent years with the development of the Linear Park and the Nore Boardwalk, but these exciting additions would allow Kilkenny to move to the forefront of urban landscaping in Ireland and create a unique health-centred and breathing lung in the heart of our city.”
However, these three projects represent just phase one of a strategic development plan valued at €15 million, to be delivered by Failte Ireland and the Kilkenny local authorities, working with Kilkenny Tourism and local interests over the next four years.
Also in the works are a new facility for the Butler Gallery at Evan’s Home, to house an important collection of Irish and international works dating from the 1800s, as well as renovations and improvements at the Kilkenny Design Centre Complex.
Other projects currently being considered and researched are the conversion of the city’s historic Tholsel building into a interactive-multimedia tourist and civic-information hub, and the construction of a vertical ‘Green Tower’ garden near the St Francis Abbey Brewery.
County manager Joe Crockett has said that the plans are the symbol of a change in direction and a ‘new beginning’, to improve the fortunes of Kilkenny largest industry.
The number of international visitors to Kilkenny rose from 206,000 in 2010 to 214,000 last year. The figure represents 30% of all visitors to the southeast region.
Kilkenny is one of an ‘urban triangle’ of three centres in the southeast, including Wexford and Waterford, which have been targeted by Failte Ireland for promotion. Visitors numbers to the southeast grew 6% last year, and the sector is worth €360 million to the region and accounts for over 10,000 jobs.