Bringing life back to Newry's Buildings
Throughout Newry we have a number of beautiful buildings standing under utilised and going to waste. We must appreciate these and their importance to our collective memory and understanding of the city. The environmental benefits that go along with reuse of existing buildings is well known and should become a first stop in all our moves to regenerate the city.
Dereliction often has logical and unavoidable reasons, though they all result in disappointment when one thinks of what could have been. The area surrounding Edward Street is one such area in need of some attention, a street filled with buildings of urban scale, decorum and proportions. Buildings with flexibility to become what ever we might desire, standing forgotten and lost.
Among this dereliction, Sticky Finger’s reuse of the factory building does encourage a certain kind of gentrification, this low touch method of reuse is a good start and would suggest the potential for the creation of a low rent creative quarter to begin to pull life back to this part of the town, an area further along the stages of decline than most. This part of the city would be an ideal location to begin renovation or the provision of housing, being slightly out of the centre and with space for a small park at Corry Square.
A pair of buildings sit at the corner between Cecil & Edward Streets, forming an urban piece of great quality. This B2 listed (HB16/25/003 A&B) set of Georgian town houses have thanks to their beautifully mirrored facades act as a single strong object in the city, but I believe are now one property also increasing the impact the pari have upon the street and city. This building has the elegant window reveals and plastered facade of a certain quality and anonymity allowing it to easy take the role of house, office, workshop or any other typology our city needs. The fact that the building is mostly plaster in its public face allows anyone renovating this a certain freedom, in that they do not need the specialist skills and complexities a building finished with stone would require.
The gable to the building is something special, an informal canvas of render. Marked like a relief by small openings, the scar of a long lost neighbour and multiple buttresses added and incorporated to ensure the stability of the building. The combination of props, marks and openings develop a character specific to this buildings place in the town, a space left over which would allow for the provision of an accessible entrance or any other addition necessary for the building to be comfortably reused.
Across Europe many post industrial cities encouraged the small scale incremental improvement of these sorts of area through a council backed regeneration scheme, where the purchase of these buildings or site are heavily subsided by the city if the buyer agrees to renovate the house and live in it for a significant period of time - generating both an increase in population and pride in the area necessary for a community to develop. In places like Rotterdam schemes like this are common and have resulted in the complete overhaul and improvement of many parts of the city into liveable and high quality neighbourhoods.
For a closer example, the “Dublin House” scheme supported by Dublin City council, instigated and led by the city architect supports individuals and groups to buy derelict city centre sites and buildings at a discount. They are then given a tax break on the cost of renovation if they agree to live onsite for a significant period, of course these schemes are more applicable to those with a certain level of income, but they do allow people to get a quality and unique without relying on large companies. A further benefit to the city is the provision of lower cost housing and regeneration of parts of the city without a large capital outlay from the council.
Perhaps a solution to a lot of our city’s issues of dereliction could come a small amount of support for the regeneration of individual buildings, leading to a city of life. Without the amount of red tape associated with larger projects, the buildings described here could comfortably and quickly become a lively co-housing or apartment scheme - if support was there for such schemes at a higher level.