The transformation of Newry, Mourne and Down in recent years has been nothing short of incredible.
Visitors who last came to the district 21 years ago would today find a vastly different place to the one they set their eyes upon before the turn of the Millennium.
However, it’s fair to say that coronavirus has cast a huge shadow over parts of Northern Ireland – and put question marks over some of the biggest developments in the NMD Council area.
However, the middle of December proved to be a game-changer for the council when a seismic £200m was signed off on to help the district’s tourism, regeneration and infrastructure over the next 10 years.
Here is a list of what to look out for this in that time:
1. The Mourne Mountains Gateway
The new state-of-the-art visitor attraction will offer the Mourne Mountains a new lease of life. It will redefine visitors’ experience of the popular mountains whilst supporting the sustainable growth of tourism and protecting the region’s natural heritage and habitat.
The multi-million-pound initiative features a series of ambitious proposals including a gondola ride into the heart of the mountains.
The project will also deliver a world-class visitor attraction and will create improved, more sustainable access to the Mournes.
2. Newry City Centre Regeneration
The long-overdue regeneration for Newry City will create and sustain jobs, increase visitor numbers, appeal to residents and stimulate the evening economy.
It’s hoped that the council’s Regeneration and Investment Plan of the city will help to regenerate the city centre and is being driven forward in conjunction with both statutory departments and private sector developers.
A new civic hub along with a new theatre and conference facilities has been agreed upon and is due to be situated in the heart of the Newry.
The new theatre and conference facility will provide the infrastructure and resources necessary to advance the performing arts and culture sector of Newry, attract professional and aspiring artists to the city, as well as provide a conference and events space to attract organisations and business events to the area.
The civic hub will provide a base for the Council offices within Newry, enabling a more streamlined and better environment for the delivery of council services.
The £25million direct investment by the Council to the theatre and conference and civic hub facilities will form the cornerstone of the regeneration investment.
While an additional £8million – which has been successfully secured from the Belfast Region City Deal (BRCD) – will create new public event spaces and provide the private sector with an opportunity to increase the provision of Grade A office accommodation.
3. Newry Southern Relief Road
This new road will link the A1 bypass with the A2 Warrenpoint dual carriageway.
It will provide an alternative strategic route for traffic that reduces pressure on Newry city centre, facilitates onward travel to Dublin and improves access to other regional gateways.
This project will not only improve the connectivity of the wider south Down area with the Dublin and Belfast N1 route, but it will also improve road safety and reduce chronic congestion issues in the wider Newry area.
4. Albert Basin Park project
Despite not being part of the Belfast Region City Deal, the project also received a huge boost this month.
Last week, Finance Minister, Conor Murphy, allocated funding of £16.2m for the project from the Executive’s City and Growth Fund.
The Albert Basin Park Project will develop a new 15 acre City Park on the Albert Basin site.
It will respond to the health, fitness and well-being of Newry’s residents as well as to the local area’s education and arts.
It’s hoped that the project will be able to provide the city with a state-of-the-art park including a welcome centre, shared pathways, children’s playpark, urban sports park and a swan bridge.