Developers to get view of Irish Street base site

Developers to get view of Irish Street base site

12 February 2020

POTENTIAL developers are to be given an opportunity to view a sprawling town centre site in Downpatrick ahead of its major redevelopment.

Newry, Mourne and Down Council has this week confirmed that developers and other interested parties are to be allowed access to the former PSNI base, including a large car park to the rear and a number of adjacent, empty buildings.

The aim of the exercise is to allow experts to provide feedback on the site’s potential development and any constraints which could potentially hinder progress.

Their views will be examined by the local council and Department of Communities ahead of a development brief being published, invited developers to come forward with their plans for the large site.

Confirmation of the plan to invite developers to view the site came at Monday’s meeting of the local council’s Enterprise, Tourism and Regeneration Committee.

Council officials are also planning a separate event designed to provide business owners in Downpatrick with an input into plans to redevelop the Irish Street site which is hoped to take place next month.

Recently, a number of Downpatrick councillors were given the opportunity to view the inside of the former police base and the expansive grounds to the rear which will feature heavily in the proposed redevelopment scheme as the drive to regenerate this part of Downpatrick is ramped up.

The former police base enjoys protected status and cannot be razed to the ground to pave the way for any new development. As a result, innovative ways will have to be found to include the building in the new retail scheme which could also include new housing.

There are also some who believe that a multi-storey car park — with retail outlets on the ground floor — should be considered in the new development and built on top of the existing Irish Street car park footprint.

Local council officials say that they are committed to working with the Downpatrick business community, residents and other stakeholders on the redevelopment of the Irish Street site.

They hope that working alongside local people on the redevelopment proposal will provide consultants charged with coming up with a design on the way forward with an understanding of what residents and traders would like to see and what would work at this particular site.

The development brief for the town centre location is expected to outline what all those involved in the process would like to see happen in Irish Street to maximise the potential of every square inch of available space.

Leading High Street brands including Marks and Spencer and Home Bargains have expressed an interest in the Irish Street location which is the last large scale development site remaining in Downpatrick town centre.

It is over two years since it was revealed that the former police station site had been earmarked for a major economic regeneration initiative, with local council officials confirming recently that various pockets of land which make-up the Irish Street site have now been purchased.

Downpatrick councillor Oonagh Hanlon has welcomed confirmation that a so-called soft market testing exercise is to proceed shortly.

“This will allow potential developers and interested parties an opportunity to visit the Irish Street site during a planned open day. This will allow them to give their views on the potential of the site and point out any likely constraints within any proposed project,” she explained.

Cllr Hanlon added: “The feedback provided will be used to assist the Department for Communities and Newry, Mourne and Down Council to prepare a development brief for the site.

“The regeneration project for the former police base site provides an opportunity to regenerate Downpatrick town centre. We are looking at the opportunity of a generation to restore a vibrant town centre location and build on the ongoing regeneration of the Irish Street area.”