The Changing Face of Sligo
Seán Martin, Senior Architect, Sligo Borough Council talks about the changing landscape of Sligo.
- Sean Martin
How has Sligo City changed over the years?Sligo as a city has always been changing. A particular dramatic period of change was in the 19th century when our port, which could then be considered the equivalent of an international airport, was bringing trade, farming materials, plant, stock, coal and timber to and from Sligo. Sligo's wealth at that time was invested in fine town centre buildings such as the Town Hall, Banks, Courthouse, Model School and town houses. The Port acted as a Regional Gateway connecting Sligo to North and South America and Britain. Sligo is now designated as a ‘Gateway City’ under the National Spatial Strategy and has become the leading urban centre in the North-West. This has also led to significant change in terms of Sligo’s economy, infrastructure, enterprise and labour force. The quality of life for its citizens has also changed over the years for the better.
With so much change around, do you think Sligo’s history and character is being lost?No, not lost in terms of history, but certainly changed in terms of character. The core of the city centre is fundamentally 19th century in terms of the building stock with the exception of a number of strategic interventions notably at the former Silver Swan site. However, the core is adequately protected through the list of Protected Structures and the Architectural Conservation Areas (ACAs) as set out in the Sligo and Environs Development Plan. A number of issues have contributed to Sligo's current growth. A series of tax incentives encouraged new developments manifested in the regeneration of Rockwood Parade, Kennedy Parade, Kempten Parade and Riverside. However, the certainty generated from the Sligo & Environs Development Plan 2004- 2010, the designation of Sligo as a Gateway City together with the restoration and refurbishment of key public buildings such as City Hall, Model Arts & Niland Gallery and the Courthouse, have significantly contributed to the preservation of key landmarks in a time of change. These important public buildings continue to contribute to the architectural character and quality of Sligo City Centre.
In your opinion, what major issues does Sligo City face?Any deficiencies in the area of contemporary commercial and retail developments are now being met in the Quayside Shopping Centre, Wine Street car park redevelopment and at Carraroe. Much of this change does not happen in isolation but is due to the fostering of new partnerships, many of which have been co-ordinated and developed by Sligo Local Authorities.
Another deficiency which is now being met, and is encapsulated in the changing face of Sligo, is tourism and the hospitality industry. Four significant new hotels will greatly contribute to the tourism growth of Sligo through proactive marketing by these hotels and the region. Retaining the quality of the city centre and integrating balanced development remains a challenge for developers and Planning Authorities to ensure that the quality of life issues of a vibrant city centre are met. In some cases familiar local landmarks have disappeared such as the Silver Swan Hotel. However, in the changing face of Sligo this familiar hotel is replaced by a very significant contemporary piece of architecture, which houses a new hotel and forms a landmark at Hyde Bridge. There is still room for improvement particularly in the area of the appearance of the city centre, the issue of litter, and the provision of areas of civic amenity. The development of park facilities at Stephen Street car park and the pedestrianisation programme will contribute to a calmed pedestrian friendly environment.
What plans do Sligo Local Authorities have for Sligo and its environs?Some of the future changes anticipated by the Local Authorities will be in the area of transportation with the continued planning and development of the Western Distributor road, Eastern bridge, a Western by-pass and bridge linking to a new N15 route to Donegal. Other developments will include the pedestrianisation of the City centre, the planning and development of the Port area through Local Area Action Plans and the continued marketing and development of industrial and technological opportunities in the region. The continued development of quality housing in the public and private sectors and the development of new partnerships in the creation of integrated communities will continue to be pursued with the objective to always improve quality of life issues for the people of Sligo.
Can Sligo live up to its designated status of ‘Gateway City’?Sligo is undergoing unprecedented growth and is continuing to meet the challenges presented with Gateway status. The construction of the Inner Relief Road represents a contemporary feat of engineering and will prove to be one of the many stimuli for the continued expansion of the City. The corridor of the new Inner Relief Road will provide opportunities for new residential and commercial buildings reflecting high quality contemporary architecture on new sites and in particular in the areas of Union Street and Adelaide Street. These buildings will be important in presenting a 'new face' of Sligo to the users of the Inner Relief Road. The 'gateway structures' planned at Carraroe represent the start of such development together with the refurbishment and redevelopment of the former Harper Campbell warehouses at Union Street in the City Centre. The changing face of Sligo represented by the scale and variety of development currently underway reflects the assertion of Sligo as the regional capital and gateway to the North West.
- Sligo as it was circa 1900
- Sligo as it is today
- New Hotel at Hyde Bridge
© Sligo County Council,
County Hall, Riverside,
Sligo, Co. Sligo.