An international-standard riverbank garden, a ‘creative quarter’, the undergrounding of Market Yard carpark, and the pedestrianisation of High Street are just some of the ideas put forward by a group of Ireland’s top architects and planners at a special meeting held last week on the future of the site at St Francis Abbey Brewery.
The group made a series of presentations to members of Kilkenny local authorities and key figures in the local tourism industry. The visions outlined included a lot of shared and mutual concepts, some conflicting – but all with the unified purpose of securing a vibrant future for the site and Kilkenny City.
Architect Anthony Reddy, whose family live in Kilkenny, listed what he called ten ‘actions’ that he felt could revolutionise the city. He said it was critical to create a street alongside the river with landscaping; to create a new grid of urban streets and squares for the new quarter; to locate the Dunnes Stores carpark underground or in a ‘screened multi-storey’ building; to construct two new pedestrian bridges; to create new public spaces at St Francis’ Abbey, Bateman Quay and Market Square – and to pedestrianise High Street.
Sean Harrington of Sean Harrington Architects also stressed the need for taking another look at how the city’s ‘central spine’ was utilised.
“The connection between St Canice’s Cathedral and Kilkenny Castle is vitally important,” he said.
“The overwhelming thing in Kilkenny is the traffic, and the route between the cathedral and the castle is very vehicle and pedestrian-unfriendly.”
James Pike of O’ Mahony Pike Architects envisioned a linear garden for Bateman Quay, and possibly a multi-storey carpark.
“The large Dunnes Stores carpark – we are hoping that is something we can change,” he said.
He also said that pedestrianisation of a lot of the city centre should be considered, “as there are many parts that are simply unsuitable for vehicles.”
Mr Pike opined that any development at the brewery site would have to be low-rise so as not to interrupt the skyline of the city. He said the area was an excellent place to house a third-level institute. In terms of shopping, he said that supermarket chains were currently changing their policy to now go for smaller, local stores, and this could be a favourable development.
All speakers and presentations were filmed to go on the local authority’s website so that people from Kilkenny and all over the world can give their thoughts and feedback.