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Newry open for business

The number of vacant premises on Newry’s two main shopping streets has fallen for the second year in a row. The 2014 Reporter Hill Street/ Monaghan Street survey has found that the number of empty ground floor units has fallen by nearly a third on the 2012 figure. Last week there were just 21 vacant ground floor premises on the two streets – nine fewer than 24 months ago. What’s more this figure could be set to fall further with renovation work ongoing on two vacant premises and rumors in relation to a major investment in another. Speaking to the Reporter Jack Murphy of Newry City Centre Management said that the latest figures reflect recent upgrade and promotional initiatives on the two streets. “The refurbishment of the two streets has been rewarded with these tenancy figures,” he said. “I’d now like to see this reflected along the canal where the latest upgrade works are taking place. The blossoms on the new trees are currently blooming and I think it is going to look brilliant when it is finished in the summer. The waterway has been opened up. There is much more buzz about the place and there is more footfall. There is also less negativity,” he said. Mr Murphy’s prediction that the tenancy investment along the canal will soon increase appears to be coming to fruition with ‘Sold’ signs being erected on the former tax office on Merchant’s Quay. Newry Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Orla Jackson said the Reporter survey provides evidence of a retail resurgence. “Newry Chamber of Commerce and Trade welcome the report undertaken by the Newry Reporter which demonstrates that the revival of Newry City Centre is well under way,” she said. “It is very positive news that the number of vacant premises in both Hill Street and Monaghan Street have been reduced significantly over the past two years through the creation of new business and is a visual sign of increased positivity and optimism in the local business community.” The Reporter began its high street survey in April 2012 with an initial reading of 30 vacant premises recorded. A year later and wioth walkways in Monaghan Street and much of Hill Street upgraded as part of a £2m scheme this figure had fallen by one to 29. The 2014 reading taken last week revealed that this number had fallen again – this time more substantially. Further analysis of the figures reveals that the number of vacant ground floor units on Hill Street has fallen from 18 to 15 in the last 12 months whilst the number of vacant units on Monaghan Street has fallen from 11 to 8 in the past year. Despite welcoming the positive trend, Mr Murphy said last week’s confirmation that funding had not been secured for a second Hill Street public realm scheme was detrimental to further growth. “Its disappointing that the next phase has been scuppered (for the time being) due to lack of money,” he said. “This scheme would have revitalised the side streets as well as the area at the library and beside the cathedral. This scheme will happen but we will have to wait. The recent usage figures for the North Street car park (the Reporter found that an average of 170 vehicles were sing the facility on a daily basis) have shown that the need for this work and for a new access point linking North Street with Margaret Street. “The recent water works on Hill Street have left some of the older paving in a mess. So the question now is how to mend it in the meantime. There are stacks of things we have to keep doing so we can’t take our foot off the pedal,” he said.


16th April 2014

Newry Reporter