Clanbrassil Street under cover - a vision for the future
Dundalk businessman Gerry Byrne has a vision for Clanbrassil Street. The owner of the Copper Kettle in the Clanbrassil Centre believes that if a canopy was erected on both sides of the streets it would help bring people to the town's main thoroughfare.
'A dry shopper is a happy shopper,' quips Gerry who came up with the idea after seeing canopies over streets in Spain.
And while the Spanish structures are erected to provide shade, he argues that here in Ireland, they would provide protection from the elements.
Gerry first mooted the idea a few years ago and says it was received enthusiastically by those he shared it with.
The late Willie Duffy, chairperson of Dundalk Tidy Towns, was very taken with it, he says, and had suggested that funding might be available to advance the project.
Gerry got a computer generated mock up to show what the project would look like and while he got lots of positive feedback, the recession meant that the idea stalled.
Now, he would love to see it being advanced in tandem with the multi-million Euro refurbishment of Clanbrassil Street and the St Nicholas Quarter.
'This would be a great opportunity to increase the footfall on the street,' he says. 'It would encourage shoppers to come in all weathers. There could be seating outside cafes, space for buskers, and in the winter it could be used for a Christmas Market and continental style markets in the summer.'
He points out that canopies are to be found in European cities throughout Spain and France, and the idea has been adopted in a number of Irish cities as well.
One of those who had been impressed with his idea was an official with Louth County Council who moved to Waterford. And whether it's entirely coincidental or not he doesn't know, but Waterford has joined the list of Irish cities with a canopy.
The specially constructed steel and glass canopy costing €1.2m covers the area as known as the Apple Market in Waterford, in a project undertaken by Waterford Council with support from the European Union's Regional Development Fund through the Southern Regional Assembly. It forms part of a €17.3m urban renewal programme in the city.
Similar structures can be found in other parts of the country. Temple Bar has its Umbrella, designed by Sean Harrington Architects, while Limerick's Milk Market includes a canopy which was installed as part of a major renovation in 2010.
Gerry feels the time is right for Dundalk to embrace a similar project which would enhance the town centre, making it more attractive to shoppers as well as opening up the area for a variety of cultural and entertainment uses.
'There's been a major sale of property including the old Dearey's store which Guiney's are moving into,' he says.
He points out that Chinese pharma firm WuXi Biologics is to create 400 jobs over the next five years at a new pharmaceutical manufacturing facility in Dundalk.
'We need to have a worthy town centre with places for people to shop and socialise and I believe this project would make a major contribution to that.'