Exciting times for Nenagh
Nenagh looks set to face very exciting times as a new tourist office incorporating a “little museum” representative of the town is set to open soon in Banba Square, in a development that coincides with the announcement of a plan to transform the old Rialto Cinema into a digital hub and enterprise centre.
Cllr Seamus Morris seemed to sum up the mood at last Thursday’s meeting of the Nenagh Municipal District Council when he said he was “in awe” at the superb work undertaken by local authority management to secure flagship projects for the town.
His comments came as the District’s Administrator, Rosemary Joyce, revealed that the new tourist office earmarked for Banba Square is “99 per cent complete” and was much more than just a tourist office. “It is a little museum of Nenagh,” she said.
Ms Joyce delivered yet further good news when she revealed that the council was now seeking funding to transform the Rialto Cinema into a Digital and Enterprise Hub.
If funding is secured, the old protected building, formerly occupied by Sheahan’s Hardware, is set to become a shared workspace for a range of complementary activities, including commercial businesses, public sector and community organisations.
A hub such as this would typically offer high-speed and cutting-edge technical facilities and services, as well as meeting rooms, event and training spaces, with a focus on bringing people together to create enterprise and initiative that would bring investment and inject new vibrancy into the town.
In documentation presented at the meeting to councillors the council stated that in seeking to get government support to create The Hub in the former cinema building it wanted to develop “an outline masterplan for the redevelopment of the adjacent brownfield site at Banba Square.”
The council said the The Hub “would be an exemplar sustainable, green, town centre regeneration project that will revitalise the town centre of Nenagh through the provision of much-needed incubator enterprise space, public realm enhancement, improved permeability/linkages with existing streets and backland/infill development.”
The council said the redevelopment of the cinema and the brownfield site it occupies would build on the development of the Nenagh Historic and Cultural Quarter Project which involves plans to restore the old Gaol site, the town’s 12th Century castle and enhancement of Banba Square itself.
The council stated: “The overarching aim and purpose of the proposal [for the cinema site] is to promote economic development and increase employment opportunities while preserving and saving a protected historic structure from dereliction.”
The project value is over €1.43 million and grant funding of almost €1.5 million is being sought through the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.
The overall aim of the plan for the cultural and historical quarter, according to the council, is “to stimulate tourism growth and revitalise the local economy/visitor economy within a context of tourism-led regeneration, comprising arts, history, heritage and culture. . .collectively offering an immersive tourism experience.”
A Design Team for the project is now in place and a questionnaire has been advertised online for the public to have their say - a move that has elicited “a significant response”.
A further public consultation will take place on completion of the development of four concepts which will inform the design. Detailed designs and a Part 8 planning process are set to be completed by end of April next year.
A Steering Group and Implementation Group to drive the project has been established and regular meetings are taking place.
Speaking on the new tourism office, Ms Joyce said initial interviews to employ an officer to staff the building will take place this month with final interviews scheduled for October.
Cllr Joe Hannigan said having a tourist office in Banba Square would be “a massive boost” not only for Nenagh but all the surrounding areas. “Looking at the town of Nenagh, you would be proud the way it is at the moment,” he said.
Cllr Ger Darcy said he was delighted like other councillors to be now offered a tour of the new tourist office by Ms Joyce. The office would be a great boost to the entire area.
Ms Joyce said it was envisaged that the person appointed to the tourist office position will be much more than someone who sits behind a desk. The service provided by the successful applicant would be customer focused and he or she will have skills in social media to promote the attractions of the town and surrounding areas online.
Cllr Morris asked what were the implications for the council’s planned digital hub at the commercial and business park at Stereame now that one was planned for the cinema site.
Ms Joyce said an application to government for funding for the facility at Stereame had been unsuccessful. The indications given for turning down the application was that Stereame was a green field site and the government favoured the development of hubs in town centres. The cinema site had come into the ownership of the council subsequent to it making the application to develop the hub at Stereame. The view now was that the council would be more likely to secure funding for a hub on the cinema site because of the criteria set down by central government. It was likely the council would know by December if its application for funding for the cinema site was successful.
Cllr Morris praised council officials for coming up with the plans outlined. “They are thinking on their feet and finding use for old buildings. I am in awe of the work that they are doing and the work going on around the town, so well done to everybody.”