Newry Public Realm

Major public realm works within Newry City were completed on behalf of Newry & Mourne District Council in 2012 and recently came through the defects liability period allowing the Council, one year on to see they backed a very successful regeneration project that has improved the aesthetic and physical appearance of the busiest parts of their city.

These areas were subject to an environmental improvement scheme in the 1990’s when the streets were paved in concrete setts, cobbles and flags but this style and material had dated quickly in terms of design and physical condition. By 2012 the city centre’s public realm was looking rather worn out, requiring attention and investment. With the Department for Social Development (DSD) partially funding the scheme and having experience with similar schemes across the province, they saw their investment as being for the long term benefit of these areas. Hence, granite stone paving was selected on basis it is robust, aesthetically appropriate for a Conservation Area and is timeless in terms of material selection. While this set the tone for the redesign of these areas, it was never going to be a quick paving exercise and this really acted as the spark for a serious attempt to address the public realm for the long-term benefit of Newry city centre.

This public realm project encompassed Hill Street, Monaghan Street and a new plaza at Marcus Square and subsequently took into account requirements of utility companies, traffic considerations, conservation heritage status, local traders, shoppers, pubs & nightlife entertainment and then the added bonus of accommodating the Newry Marathon
route and an Olympic Flame procession during the construction period (February to July 2012). Hamilton Architects / Park Hood Landscape Architects were appointed as designers from Stage C to take to fruition outline proposals
broadly agreed by the Council and DSD. The focus of the project was the creation of a new Events Space at Marcus Square where the entire area was levelled off to provide an even surface on which to hold smaller events on the pedestrian area which can spill over onto street areas for larger events as traffic can be controlled. Access between the street and pedestrian area is restricted by carefully positioned trees, granite benches, bins and bollards ensuring the area appears a space for the people rather than one dominated by roadscape and traffic.

Phasing and efficiency of works was integral to the success of how this project was received by both the public and local businesses as these types of project can generate negative publicity. Given the works were also being done to suit Department budgets and funding availability, the programme of works had to be flexible enough to work in
multiple areas to ensure that there was a coherent and realistic way of achieving contract completion. Within the six month construction period, the main contractor laid 5,500 square metres of natural stone paving to Hill Street, Monaghan Street, Margaret Square and Marcus Square, resurfaced the Hill Street carriageway and undergrounded overhead NIE and BT services. On the completed public spaces, new street furniture was provided including seats, benches, bins and cycle stands with the main elements being stainless steel and hardwood timber. The designs and materials, while contemporary, had to have Conservation Officer approval and NIEA backing on account of Conservation Area Status.

A total of 45 new street lights were installed across the public realm with “white light” that gives an improved aesthetic light that has significantly enhanced the night-time character of the building facades and streetscape areas. The project included planting of sixteen semi-mature Lime trees set into porous resin-bond surfaces pits that replaced damaged or poor quality street trees. Power sockets were added to the base of all the semi-mature trees to allow for
Christmas or festive lighting.

This scheme has undoubtedly helped to rejuvenate the city and created a modern, vibrant environment that sits comfortably and enhances the historic and focal core of Newry. It has created an attractive city centre townscape benefiting both trader and visitor and serves to keep the city as one of the country’s foremost shopping destinations based on an array of traditional independent traders and multinational retailers.