£3.2 Million Downpatrick Public Realm Scheme Unveiled

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The total costs of the scheme were £3.2 million which includes £2.6 million from the DSD and the remainder from DETI, Down District Council, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, The Arts Council and the DRD. Speaking at the launch ceremony in the St Patrick Centre, Minister McCausland said, “The new public realm works including the unique public art features have greatly enhanced Downpatrick by creating an attractive town centre that visitors, local shoppers and workers find appealing. [caption id="attachment_30586" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="The red ribbon is cut Ministers Nelson McCausland and Arlene Foster to mark the completion of the Public Realm works in Downpatrick."][/caption] “Downpatrick has many merits such as its strong Christian heritage and its built environment that attracts many tourists from across the world. When people arrive it is essential that the streetscape helps to make them feel welcome and shows off these unique assets. Therefore for those with an interest in the town centre, they should continue to strive to build on the new streetscape. “In July 2010 the DSD published the Masterplan fro the town centre, and with the current challenging economic climate it is now the right time to build on the work that has been undertaken.” Minister Arlene Foster added, “Downpatrick is a key hub on the St Patrick Trail driving route and is host to many unique Christian Heritage attractions linked to St Patrick. The public realm scheme enhances the strong culture and heritage product that already exists here. “Many of the new features are an expression of the new Northern Ireland visitor experience which the Northern Ireland Tourist Board has been promoting. This includes public art, engraved pathways, bespoke benches and visitor interpretation, all of which strengthens the links between these must see attractions and improved overall visitor experience.” While in Downpatrick, the Ministers walked through the streets to see at first hand the transformation that has taken place in the town centre. The [caption id="attachment_30587" align="alignright" width="400" caption="Sculptor David Annand pictured with Down Council Chairman Cllr Dermot Curran, DSD Minister Nelson McCausland, DETI Minister Arlene Foster, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie and Cllr John Doris, Chairman of the Downpatrick Steering Committee."][/caption] improvement works include: *  a new user friendly pedestrian environment *  contemporary street furniture * the opening up of St Patrick’s Square to host future events *  improved street lighting making the town more welcoming. *  major improvements to St Patrick Square with pathways and steps to The Mall from The Grove. *  public works attractions in Scotch Street and St Patrick’s Square. Down District Council Chairman Councillor Dermot Curran added, “The idea behind the design of the scheme was to open up spaces and to create links between many attractions in the town. Anyone who has had the chance to walk through the Grove will I believe see that this aim has been achieved most successfully. The Cathedral and English Street with our prestigious museum are now accessible through the creation of the new footpath which also provides a beautiful walk through the Grove. [caption id="attachment_30588" align="alignleft" width="267" caption="Newcastle sculptor Alan Burke who made the Penannular Brooch with Rosemary Kelly, Chairman of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland."][/caption] “I would also like to extend my thanks to the traders who have participated in the shop front scheme which has complemented the public realm works. ‘But I would like to acknowledge the dedication and commitment of Sharon O’Connor, Director of Economic Development, and her team, who have managed the project and delivered it on behalf of the Council. Also, speaking at the event, South Down MP Margaret Ritchie said, “I am delighted at the completion of the works to enhance the centre of Downpatrick town, making it a more pleasant area for residents, visitors and workers. ‘The scheme represents a significant investment in the town, a large proportion of which I approved when I was DSD Minister when I launched the scheme in October 2008. This will help stimulate business and attract further investment which makes it a very positive development for the people of Downpatrick.” The Arts Council funded the Penannular Brooch which is located just outside the St Patrick Centre. Rosemary Kelly, Arts Council Chairman said, “Whatever shape it takes, public art will always attract attention. The Penannular Brooch sculpture located in the heart of St Patrick Square provides a compelling focal point for the town. “The art work will contribute to the regeneration of  Downpatrick by enhancing the public realm with its prominent location at a key tourist site, will help widen accessibility of the arts. This has been an ambitious project and it is fantastic to see the final result.” Shop Front Scheme Down District Council provided funding for a Shop Front Scheme to complement the improvements made by the Public Realm works. The funding was awarded on a competitive basis to business property owners in the commercial heart of Downpatrick. Altogether, 27 businesses received a 50% grant to improve their premises ranging from complete refurbishment to replacement signage. The total grant made available for the projects was £27,000. Note of the Sculptors Newcastle sculptor Alan Burke mastermined the large Penannular Brooch located outside the St Patrick Centre in Downpatrick. Alan has a number of prominent sculptures displayed across Northern Ireland and locally, the bow of the Viking ship at Ardglass marina is a fine example of his work. Penannular brooches were worn by both men and women from the 17th century helping to keep their cloaks fastened. The five metre high sculpture is made from cast bronze. Scottish sculptor David Annand made the Scotch Street bronze figures which include Juno the Silent Dog, Downpatrick writer Lynn Doyle, Mr Barrington and Mr Anthony. The Silent Dog series was based on a comic short story written by Doyle, a former bank manager in the town. Engravings from the text of the story have been set in paving stones on Scotch Street. David has made a number of other public art works in Ireland including the Rory Gallagher statue in Ballyshannon. He said that it took three weeks to make the Silent Dog sculpture.]]>

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