Imagine Cork City in 10 years’ time

Are you tired of seeing dereliction every time you leave your front door? Are you unhappy with the acceptance of ‘that’s the way things are’? Sadly, dereliction has become part of the fabric of where we live. It’s a constant reminder of wasted potential and lost opportunity. What should be homes for children, families, or individuals, instead lie long-term derelict. It really makes no sense. Unfortunately, dereliction has become an epidemic across Ireland.

Imagine a city, town, or village where dereliction is turned into an opportunity to create a liveable urban environment. Then imagine the lives of derelict buildings extended through taking advantage of their designed-in durability by repairing and repurposing them, into something beautiful, functional, and meaningful that carries forward significant heritage, while taking advantage of modern good practice.

Dr Frank O’Connor & Jude Sherry of www.anois.org believe now is the time to end dereliction and reimagine our cities, towns, and villages. Their case study of 300+ properties in Cork City provides evidence that dereliction can be eradicated in Cork. It can be ended across Ireland. Their international best practice research indicates that Irish cities, towns and villages would thrive as a result.

Having lived abroad for a few decades they fell in love with the vibrancy of Cork City and moved back in 2018. While the friendliness of Corkonians has been a wonderful daily tonic they’ve really struggled with dereliction and the decaying heritage.

“We have walked and documented many European cities. From day one we walked the city, every street and laneway recording our experiences. We started sharing our findings last Summer 2020 (on Twitter) and started an ongoing thread on dereliction which has garnered millions of views. We have shared over 300 properties to-date, all within 2km of the city centre island.

The human impact of dereliction really struck us, particularly its effect on everyone’s quality of life. We also realised that dereliction had long been framed as an unsolvable problem in Ireland. Through collecting and analysing all publicly available data on our dereliction thread we found some startling results.

Dereliction is solvable. We just need the political and cultural will”. Looking at global trends, cities, towns and villages that retain their built heritage thrive because everyone really values this uniqueness. Immediately Irish urban areas are in an advantageous position, with their truly distinctive landscape and heritage. Their buildings and streetscapes can be restored to become huge marketable districts. Plus, it’s cheaper and more sustainable to repurpose existing buildings than build new.

Added to this our urban areas have the ability to quickly densify by bringing existing vacant spaces back into use. The knock-on effect on the local economy will be massive, more people, more services, more money to re-invest and so on.

Imagine Cork City in 10 years’ time, a flagship of rapid transformation and sustainable densification. The unnecessary dereliction blight that was sucking the economic potential out and jeopardising the viability of local businesses and traders is gone. De-bunking the myth about retrofitting being more expensive than buying a new suburban home has had a radical impact. Living over the shop is back in fashion while hundreds of properties have been bought back into use – much of it funded by a dereliction levy.

With many families now returning to Cork City Centre, it is now cheaper, more convenient, and more sustainable to live in the centre. Corkonians are thriving from their yearly saving of €10k by getting rid of that second car, and another €5k with lower mortgage repayments. They have more money in their pocket every month to spend supporting local businesses. This new Cork is liveable, safe, healthy, beautiful, and productive and has become a global beacon for 21st century urban economic resilience and innovation. Other Irish cities, towns and village quickly follow suit. Ireland is transformed.

Our thanks to Dr Frank O’Connor & Jude Sherry at www.anois.org for contributing this article.