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View of Waterford city from the long-dormant north wharf which is earmarked for development. Alamy Stock Photo

After Saudi plans and 'bumps in the road', State's 'biggest' regeneration project breaks ground

It will see a combined investment estimated at over €500m for Waterford’s former docklands.

GROUND HAS OFFICIALLY been broken on what has been classed as the State’s biggest regeneration project.

Waterford city’s North Quays are receiving a combined €500m public and private sector investment to bring its desolate docklands back to life.

When complete, it will contain offices, residential and retail units, and a 4-star hotel.

It will also see the city’s Plunkett train station relocated east towards the centre of the quay. First up, which was part of today’s ceremony, is the construction of a new bridge for pedestrians and cyclists the North Quays and the city centre south of the River Suir.  

The eight hectare site is on the north bank of the River Suir, opposite Waterford city, and has been empty since the port moved downriver a number of decades ago.  

north quays graphic A graphic of the development for Waterford's North Quays. Waterford City and County Council Waterford City and County Council

Michael Walsh chief executive of Waterford City and County Council, became emotional as he addressed an audience following the ground-breaking ceremony, describing the day as “eight years in the making”.

He paid tribute to his team in the council saying they had “worked their asses off” to keep the project on track.

“We had a few down times to be honest in terms of making it happen,” he said, adding that the development is a milestone which will allow the city to grow northwards with up to 1,000 people living in the area within a decade. 

“It is that bigger picture about making Waterford city centre sustainable and making Waterford grow . . . but grow in a sustainable way.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, who was in Waterford for the ceremony, said it is huge economic and social importance to the city and the south-east.

“The infrastructure project will drive economic development and create jobs in Waterford and the wider region, and the development of the SDZ will enhance the city’s economic, commercial and tourist offering and improve the quality of life for people living in the city,” he said.

Transport and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan said the project will deliver an “attractive and liveable place” by providing safe and accessible active travel connections across the river into town and through links with greenway cycle routes.

The Government’s Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF) is providing investment of €100.6m and the National Transport Authority is providing investment of €70m for the eight hectare site, which was designated a Strategic Development Zone (SDZ) by the Government in 2016. 

SustainableTransportBridge_NQ An early image released last year showing how the new pedestrian and cycle bridge might look. Construction is starting on the bridge this month. Waterford City and County Council Waterford City and County Council

Works are due to commence on the site in March 2023 and be completed in 2025.

The overall level of estimated public infrastructure investment is €207m, with Waterford Council and Kilkenny County Council both contributing to the project – the remaining estimated €300m and more will be from the private sector. 

Late last year, property developer and management firm Harcourt Developments became involved alongside BAM as the private partners.

Harcourt’s recruitment was said by public sector figures involved with the project to show its prospects were more credible – the developer previously led on Belfast’s Titanic Quarter and Liverpool’s Spencer Docks redevelopment, as well as having numerous shopping centres in its portfolio.

Waterford North Quays 2 Leo Varadkar addressing the crowd in Waterford today. The North Quays are visible in the background across the River Suir. Patrick Browne Patrick Browne

Fine Gael senator John Cummins hailed it as a watershed day for the city, while noting that there had been “many bumps in the road” along the way.

It had “taken us much longer to get to this point than anyone would have hoped for”, he said, adding that the development can be a “catalyst” for the growth of the city.

The most recent bump arose last year when the local authority terminated its contract with the Saudi-based developer over claims it was unable to meet the funding requirements.  

 However, the project has not been without hurdles and in reality similar proposals were mooted more than once in recent decades.

An open competition for ideas was held to find a suitable design for the north wharf in the late 1990s, but the recession eventually put paid to any plans. 

“This investment will unlock the potential that we know exists with the North Quays site and when the project is delivered, it will redefine Waterford city and help us compete on a level playing pitch with our peer cities,” he said.

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