Waterways Ireland move could unlock ‘vast’ potential at key Grand Canal site of Offaly

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WORK on the new Grand Canal depot outside Tullamore is due to begin next year, paving the way for the redevelopment of the harbor in the town centre.

A €200,000 contract was signed today (Thursday 10 November) with Grafton Architects to design a master plan for the Harbor Area, a 3.7 acre site off Harbor Street and Store Street.

The master plan will set out a plan for a mixed commercial and residential development, but no work can take place until the site is released by Waterways Ireland.

The port and marina currently house a dry dock, a mechanical and engineering shop, and the only lock gate manufacturing plant in the Republic.

Planning permission has been granted for a project in Cappincur and Waterways Ireland aims to move all their activities from Tullamore to this site gradually in 2023 and 2024.

“We have done some enabling work to date,” Garret McGrath, Eastern Regional Manager at Waterways Ireland, told the Tribune.

“We recently appointed an architect to take the project forward and we hope in 2023, 2024 to deliver this project,” he said.

“It will be 2024 before it is almost finished. We will probably move gradually.

Meanwhile, a team from Grafton Architects – the internationally acclaimed firm where Tullamore native Yvonne Farrell is one of the lead designers – is now starting work on a masterplan design for the harbor area.

Housing, Local Government and Heritage Minister Darragh O’Brien TD was in Tullamore today for the signing of the design contract.

The €200,000 project will assess the development potential of the Grand Canal port site, as well as the nearby Young’s Store on Convent Road.

As part of the project, Grafton Architects will prepare development options for the site and a viability assessment.

They will then prepare a master plan following instructions from the Waterways Ireland and Offaly County Council project management team on the preferred option.

The project is funded by a Regeneration and Urban Development Fund award of €150,000 from the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, and funding of €25,000 each from Waterways Ireland and Offaly County Council.

Speaking at the signing, Minister O’Brien described Tullamore as “one of the hearts of the Hidden Lands”.

“Over the years many of our cities have turned their backs on rivers, turned their backs on canals and now it’s about refocusing and opening up these fantastic spaces and public realms for people who can help with regeneration. , to rejuvenation; as residential and getting more people to live and work on our rivers. The potential for this is vast,” he said.

“You are seeing more and more people, especially over the two years of Covid, staying and visiting parts of the country, even people living in communities who didn’t know what was there. We have to capitalize on that and that’s what this type of development does.

On the site, 2.2 acres are available for development, and two of these acres are owned by Waterways Ireland.

The rest is owned by Offaly County Council and licensed to Waterways Ireland. Young’s Store is a three storey former warehouse owned by Waterways Ireland. It is on Convent Road and faces across the canal to Convent View.

Mr McGrath said: ‘The port is located in the city’s oldest heritage district and in the early 19th century was a bustling place of commerce along the Grand Canal, linking Dublin to the Midlands and the west of Ireland. With the end of the use of the canals for trade and their subsequent development mainly for pleasure boating, the port area became the center of lock manufacturing and mechanical workshops for the inland waterways.

“Although it has been a vital part of Waterways Ireland’s operations over the past few years, the relocation of our operations opens up the possibility of redeveloping the site, re-establishing it as an integral part of the city, with the potential to , once again becoming a vibrant waterfront space for residents, visitors and businesses. I am excited to see what can be done with this site and how our wonderful waterways can be put to greater use for the benefit not only of the city, but of the whole region.

Chief Executive of Offaly County Council, Anna Marie Delaney, said: “Our vision for Offaly is one of sustainable economic, social and community development – resulting in a county that is an attractive place to live, work or visit. The Grand Canal Harbor Master Plan Project is another step in this direction.

Ms. Delaney added: “The site is in a key location in the city, within walking distance of the city centre, and offers excellent access to the waterways and canal banks to the Grand Canal. I’m really excited to see what can be done to reintegrate this area into the city and see how it can become a focal point again, enhancing the economic and recreational potential of the town of Tullamore, County Offaly and the region at large. ”

The master plan should be presented in mid-2023.

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