Change is inevitable, but if Naas adapts it will thrive - Lawless

Opinion

James Lawless

Reporter:

James Lawless

Change is inevitable, but if Naas adapts it will thrive - Lawless

Naas town centre

Last February I wrote a piece for the Leader outlining the challenges facing Naas as a retail town and highlighting some of the projects that were underway to address those. Six months on some of those projects are beginning to come good and it an apt time to update on where it is all at.

At a recent meeting I held with Retail Excellence Ireland, our modern shopping habits were summed up succinctly as “midweek convenience, weekend experience”.

In other words, people will shop online or in bulk midweek but want to enjoy leisure and recreation at weekends. We see this in Naas with the ever growing number of quality food and drink establishments throughout the town yet the town seems quiet midweek as people pull into out of town shopping centres, including the small convenience stores, that now exist in almost every suburb of the town and surrounds.

And yet I believe the Main Street and town centre has a very strong future, and the number of new businesses opening, whilst sometimes drawing less coverage than those closing, is testament to that.

The headline news is that a big brand retailer is very hotly tipped to be heading for Naas Main Street — all the smart money is on Dunnes taking up residence in the old Superquinn site over the next couple of months. Whilst it is understood that the final details are still being worked out, very informed sources says it happening very soon.

The unfinished shopping centre continues to represent the town’s tougher years but rapid progress has been made on that, even in the last few months, to move it from a stalemate situation to one where the receiver is now actively preparing the centre for sale by the end of this year.

There is no shortage of interested buyers — I’ve met many of them — and the council have committed to taking the cranes down at the earliest opportunity — a change in the landscape that will be very symbolic.

Devoy developments

There are exciting developments at Devoy Quarter, just behind the council offices and the Osprey hotel where a new innovation centre is to be developed; this is collaboration between University of Maynooth, the Kildare County Enterprise Office and the Kildare Chamber of Commerce.

It will employ up to 200 people and provide hot-desking spaces and a start-up hub for new and growing businesses.

Huge capital spending projects are underway which will reinforce the infrastructure of the town and district and equip it for growth now and in the years ahead.

The Sallins bypass, the addition of a third lane to the M7 from Johnstown through to the M9 exit and the new motorway interchange with the Millenium ring road by the Kerry site will all see a massive boost to the road network.

Parking is a bug-bear of many within the town; while there are a lot more spaces than sometimes realised, particularly when you consider the multi-storey on Wolfe Tone Street and the large council carpark off the Friary road, there can still be pressure for on-street parking spaces. The good news here is that Naas will take a step closer to being “clamp-free” when some of the privately owned clamping car parks move over to council management in the town’s new parking bye-laws shortly.

Whilst it’s been controversial, the Poplar Square redevelopment has got the go-ahead and this will create a new public plaza for events like the Midsummer festival, outdoor performances or just a place to sit and watch the world go and will give a very different feel to that end of the town.

With the Naas Town Development Plan to be reviewed and enhanced over the next twelve months, planners continue to project Naas, as the county town, to lead the way as a population centre and the town is projected to grow to 50,000 population within the next 20 years.

I have always believed that Naas town has a great history and will have a fantastic future — but that they may not look the same — change is the only constant in life but if we adapt we will thrive.

— James Lawless is a Fianna Fáil TD for Kildare North